Selfish is Good. Really Good.

If I see that photo of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s lifeless blue face one more time, I think I’m going to barf. It was on the home page of the Yahoo! news section. It was on the front page of the newspaper outside my hotel room. Sitting at the airport, I was treated to the big screen version.

Who decided that the world needs this graphic evidence? Pity the folks who were trying to digest food while watching the news.

Let’s be clear, I’m not a fan or mourner of Mr. al-Zarqawi. I do, however, understand why he was here–and why he’s not.

Big picture: When the casting call was announced, his soul eagerly chose the role of heartless killer in the world theater. Unfortunately, he didn’t slow down long enough to read the one and only stage direction: “Whatever you do will be done to you. Now, go act your heart out. See ya when you get back.”

Most of us think that Life on Earth is a lot more complicated than that. I don’t. We think there’s a long list of rules to follow and hoops we must jump through to please God.

Let me ask you: Is True Love hard to please? Would an unconditionally loving parent punish you eternally and sadistically for not following directions? Jesus certainly didn’t think so. But he was a bit radical. To him, the vindictive judgmental God portrayed in Hebrew Scripture bore no resemblance to the God he knew. Our vision of God reflects in the way we treat others.

The God that Mr. al-Zarqawi and legions of Christians and Jews profess to know frequently solves problems by vengefully killing and torturing those who do not agree or obey. That God, according to ancient scribes, favors some of his children over others, and is prone to genocidal rampages. It’s easy to see why al-Zarqawi and other followers of this God believe that brutality is the “right” way to handle large and small scale disputes. Like Roman pagans, these people gloat about their kill by putting it on public display. They judge their killings as justifiable and holy; the identical act by others is evil. Fascinating stuff.

My guess is that these folks have either acclimated themselves to the heat and head-bumping in the karmic clothes dryer, or they simply haven’t noticed that their behavior is not divine. A wise teacher once admonished, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. Condemn not, that ye be not condemned.” On another occasion, he rephrased it, “All those who take up the sword perish by the sword.”

In 21st century Loud Mouth-speak, all of it translates to, “Whatever you do will be done to you.” If Mr. al-Zarqawi knew that, I wonder how it would have affected his choices? More important, how will it affect yours, moving forward? I’m not talking about some of your choices, but all of them. I’m talking about making a conscious decision to be really selfish. Make life all about you.

Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re a really selfish person: You want to be treated well; you want others to respect your property, your person and your relationships, want folks to be generous, loving, patient, and forgive you when you’ve been an absolute creep. How can a selfish person achieve these results? Treat others well, respect their property, their person, and their relationships, be generous, loving, patient and forgiving. You can’t protect your best interest without protecting the best interest of others.
You don’t want anybody to steal from you? Don’t steal. You don’t want anyone to cheat you? Don’t cheat. You don’t want anyone to harm you? Don’t inflict any kind of pain upon others. Take selfishness to new heights.
Remember, whatever you do comes back to you. Don’t take my word for it. Ask Mr. al-Zarqawi.

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