Tag Archives: selfishness

When We Protect Ourselves First


He was a no name assistant on a team full high profile talent. His superiors were household names throughout town. They were the people everyone talked about and looked up to.

One devastating day, this no name member of the team saw one of his superiors commit a horrible crime. Usually the witness of a crime calls the police. These isn’t much to debate here. However, he didn’t reach for a telephone. He thought too much, and we’re left to speculate on what went through his mind…

If he called the police, there would be a scandal. The lowly assistant would receive criticism as a whistle blower. There would be allegations made, the superior would most likely deny them, and who knows what would happen in the midst of a trial. It was his word against the word of a superior. Who would believe him?

To make matters worse, he would most likely be fired or marginalized. Who would hire a whistleblower who didn’t know his place?

What should a lowly, assistant do if he wants to protect himself?

There are easy ways out and half measures available, and he opted for that route. He followed the kind of procedures you’d observe when dealing with financial indiscretions, not a major crime. He reported the crime to his superiors, and they followed the same strategy of doing something without doing enough.

In the process, the no name assistant was able to take some kind of action without appearing disloyal. He told his other superiors without causing a national scandal. He protected himself. Who doesn’t want to protect himself?

Selfishness shines through in this story. It is a cancer that prevents us from seeing the world through the eyes of others, the victims and the weak. Selfishness seeks to ensure our own safety and security above the well-being of others. It asks, “What’s right for me?” regardless of the consequences to others.

I confess that I often want to protect myself, to preserve my own comfort at the expense of others. I don’t like the thought of taking a stand and alienating myself among the people I like.

It never feels good to be alienated or rejected by your own people, to lose colleagues because you don’t see eye to eye on ethical matters, let alone a crime. So, instead of being rejected by my own tribe, I look for half-measures, easy ways out that can preserve a shred of my integrity without offending “good people.”

Jesus tells us to love our enemies.

The prophets demand that we pay our workers fair wages.

God tells us that he hates injustice.

I read these words and look for easy ways out. I don’t want to choose a path that is too costly. I look for half-measures. I don’t want to be the whistleblower who challenges the rest of my team.

It’s all so clear when the story involves sex abuse and a college football team, but when it comes down to my views on war, the policies I protest, the shopping decisions I make, the ways I donate money, etc… the lines become murky again.

Should they?

It may help to remember that ten or twenty years from now, we’ll all look back at our lives and begin to ask ourselves, “Did I choose the right course or did I only try to protect myself?” With the benefit of hindsight, we’ll see the fruit that comes from our decisions. We’ll see whether we benefited from self-preservation or from serving and preserving others.

May God give us the courage to protect those who are vulnerable and abused.

The Unknown Benefits of the Freelance Life

While setting up the projector for my writing course at a local community center last fall, a high school student was cleaning up an art project she’d been leading with a group of children. Seeing “Ed Cyzewski: Freelance Writer” at the bottom of my slide, she asked, “What’s a freelance writer?”

While one of her co-workers attempted to give a traditional answer, I replied, “It’s a nice way of saying you’re unemployed but work occasionally.”

I was joking, but also a little serious.

I try not to play the poor old me card here on the blog. Believe me, my small group hears enough about that. However, when I began trying this freelance thing out in August 2009, I had no idea what I was in for. It was like launching a brand new business where I needed to build long lists of clients and contacts.

It has taken longer than I’d expected to get established. I thought I was starting off in good shape back in 2009, but things only started to click in the fall of 2010. At this point now, I can actually use the word “busy” on occasion, while still looking for new editing, web site copy, and magazine article work.

I feel very blessed right now.

We hear a lot about the struggles of freelancers and also about the guilty pleasures of freelancers—though I’m not one for spending the entire day in my bathrobe and slippers. Freelancing is either bad for me because work can be irregular, or it can be great because I make my own schedule and can work anywhere I want.

However, there’s another side to this. Freelancing can be good for our friends and family. I can work anywhere, and therefore I can pick up my “operation” and relocate to the side of a friend in need. I’d honestly never thought about this aspect of independent freelance work, but it’s truly exciting.

I’ve been so focused on what’s good or bad for me in this career move to write full time, that I’d forgotten how persevering through the past year and a half also benefits my friends and family. I’m grateful for these moments when I’m reminded that this really isn’t all about me.