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Extreme self-lovers will set a man's house on fire, though it were but to roast their eggs. ~ Francis Bacon

Selfishness is being concerned excessively or exclusively, for oneself or one's own advantage, pleasure, or welfare, regardless of others. It is the opposite of altruism or selflessness; and has also been contrasted (as by C. S. Lewis) with self-centeredness.

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All men who live only according to their five senses, and seek nothing beyond the gratification of their natural appetites for pleasure and reputation and power, cut themselves off from that charity which is the principle of all spiritual vitality and happiness because it alone saves us from the barren wilderness of our own abominable selfishness. ~ Thomas Merton
All your life, you have heard yourself denounced; not for your faults, but for your greatest virtues.  …  You have been called selfish for the courage of acting on your own judgment and bearing sole responsibility for your own life.  You have been called arrogant for your independent mind. ~ Ayn Rand
Selfishness is not living as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as one wishes to live.
Oscar Wilde


  • Extreme self-lovers will set a man's house on fire, though it were but to roast their eggs.
  • SELFISH, adj. Devoid of consideration for the selfishness of others.
  • There can be no Good Will. Will is always Evil; it is persecution to others or selfishness.
  • The deva asked,
    What causes ruin in the world?
    What breaks off friendships?
    What is the most violent fever?
    Who is the best physician?"

    The Blessed One replied,
    Ruin in the world is caused by ignorance;
    friendships are broken off by envy and selfishness;
    the most violent fever is hatred;
    the best physician is the Buddha.
  • We must annihilate the feelings of "I - ness" and "my - ness" from our minds. You must march forward like a soldier, dutifully and bravely. The thing which brings man down is "attachment" to his own kith and kin. When all belong to this whole universe, where is the place for "I" and "mine"?


  • Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy.
  • Selfishness and demagoguery take advantage of liberty. The selfish hand constantly seeks to control government, and every increase of governmental power, even to meet just needs, furnishes opportunity for abuse and stimulates the effort to bend it to improper uses.


  • Where all are selfish, the sage is no better than the fool, and only rather more dangerous.
    • James Anthony Froude, Short Studies on Great Subjects (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1883), Vol. III, "Party Politics", p. 443.




  • Since the world does not really believe in God, in the long run the God-fearing person must really love himself. The God-fearing person does not love what the world loves, but then what is left—God and himself. The world takes God away, and therefore the God-fearing person loves himself. The world regards the fear of God as self-love.
    • Søren Kierkegaard, Journals and Papers, II 1613 (Pap. VIII.1 A283) n. d., 1847, as cited in Works of Love (Kierkegaard)|Works of Love, note on pp. 468-469


  • “If any man love the world, the charity of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world is the concupiscence of the flesh and the concupiscence of the eyes and the pride of life.” That is to say, all men who live only according to their five senses, and seek nothing beyond the gratification of their natural appetites for pleasure and reputation and power, cut themselves off from that charity which is the principle of all spiritual vitality and happiness because it alone saves us from the barren wilderness of our own abominable selfishness.


  • Selfishness is the making a man's self his own centre, the beginning and end of all he doth.


  • The only reason why we are always thinking of our own ego is that we have to live with it more continuously than with anyone else's.
  • And, for the largest-hearted of us, what is the word we write most often in our cheque-books? "Self."
    • Eden Phillpotts, A Shadow Passes (London: Cecil Palmer & Hayward, 1918), p. 62.
  • I am not sure that it is best for us, once safe and secure on the Rock of Ages, to ask ourselves too closely what this and that experience may signify. Is it not better to be thinking of the Rock, not of the feet that stand upon it?
    • Elizabeth Prentiss, reported in George L. Prentiss, The Life and Letters of Elizabeth Prentiss (New York: Anson D. F. Randolph & Company, 1882), p. 297


  • Selfishness does not mean only to do things for one's self. One may do things, affecting others, for his own pleasure and benefit. This is not immoral, but the highest of morality.
  • All your life, you have heard yourself denounced; not for your faults, but for your greatest virtues. You have been hated, not for your mistakes, but for your achievements. You have been scorned for all those qualities of character which are your highest pride. You have been called selfish for the courage of acting on your own judgment and bearing sole responsibility for your own life. You have been called arrogant for your independent mind. You have been called cruel for your unyielding integrity. You have been called anti-social for the vision that made you venture upon undiscovered roads. You have been called ruthless for the strength and self-discipline of your drive to your purpose.
  • Selfishness is the most terrible scourge of humanity, the source of destruction, and, first of all, self-destruction.
  • The most terrible thing is to develop in a child selfishness and stinginess, as these vices will limit the growth of a child's mind.
    • Helena Roerich, Letters I, (17 June 1931)


  • Despite those titles, power, and pelf,
    The wretch, concentred all in self,
    Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
    And, doubly dying, shall go down
    To the vile dust from whence he sprung,
    Unwept, unhonour'd and unsung.
    • Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel (1805), Canto VI, Stanza 1
  • It is self-love and its offspring self-deception, which shut the gates of heaven, and lead men, as if in a delicious dream, to hell.
    • Christian Scriver, Gotthold's Emblems (1667), translated by Robert Menzies (Edinburgh T. and T. Clark, 1862), CCLVIII. The Magnifying Glass, p. 347.
  • The behavioral foundations of capitalism do, of course, continue to engage attention, and the pursuit of self-interest still occupies a central position in theories about the workings and successes of capitalism. But in these recent theories, interests are given a rather different—and much more "positive"—role in promoting efficient allocation of resources through informational economy as well as the smooth working of incentives, rather than the negative role of blocking harmful passions.
  • Thus suicidal selfishness, that blights
    The fairest feelings of the opening heart,
    Is destined to decay, whilst from the soil
    Shall spring all virtue, all delight, all love,
    And judgment cease to wage unnatural war
    With passion's unsubduable array.
  • Twin-sister of Religion, Selfishness!
    Rival in crime and falsehood, aping all
    The wanton horrors of her bloody play;
    Yet frozen, unimpassioned, spiritless,
    Shunning the light, and owning not its name,
    Compelled by its deformity to screen
    With flimsy veil of justice and of right
    Its unattractive lineaments that scare
    All save the brood of ignorance; at once
    The cause and the effect of tyranny;
    Unblushing, hardened, sensual and vile;
    Dead to all love but of its abjectness;
    With heart impassive by more noble powers
    Than unshared pleasure, sordid gain, or fame;
    Despising its own miserable being,
    Which still it longs, yet fears, to disenthrall.


  • Love took up the harp of Life, and smote on all the chords with might;
    Smote the chord of Self, that, trembling, pass'd in music out of sight.
  • I hold, in truth, with him who sings
    To one clear harp in divers tones,
    That men may rise on stepping-stones
    Of their dead selves to higher things.




  • Selfishness is the only real atheism; aspiration, unselfishness, the only real religion.
    • Israel Zangwill, Children of the Ghetto (Philadelphia, Jewish Publication Society of America, 1892), Book II, Chapter 16, p. 299.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 696.
  • Chacun chez soi, chacun pour soi.
    • Every one for his home, every one for himself.
    • M. Dupin
  • Esto, ut nunc multi, dives tibi pauper amicis.
    • Be, as many now are, luxurious to yourself, parsimonious to your friends.
    • Juvenal, Satires (early 2nd century), V. 113

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
  • Less, less of self each day,
    And more, my God, of Thee!
  • Deliver me, O Lord, from that evil man, myself.
  • The very heart and root of sin is in an independent spirit. We erect the idol self; and not only wish others to worship, but worship ourselves.
  • Did any man at his death ever regret his conflicts with himself, his victories over appetite, his scorn of impure pleasure, or his sufferings for righteousness' sake?
  • A man as he goes down in self, goes up in God. It is interesting to trace this in the experience of the apostle Paul, as gathered from his Epistles. In the year of our Lord 59, he is the least of the apostles, and not f1t to be called an apostle, because he persecuted the church of God. In the year of our Lord 64, after four years more of growth in grace, he is "less than the least of all saints." But in the year of our Lord 65, and not long before he was about to receive his crown in heaven, he is "the chief of sinners."
  • If we desire to do what will please God, and what will help men, we presently find ourselves taken out of our narrow habits of thought and action; we find new elements of our nature called into activity; we are no longer running along a narrow track of selfish habit.
  • If you seek in the spirit of selfishness, to grasp all as your own, you shall lose all, and be driven out of the world, at last, naked and forlorn, to everlasting poverty and contempt.
  • Show me the man who would go to heaven alone if he could, and I will show you one who will never be admitted there.
  • Alas! how many souls there are full of self, and yet desirous of doing good and serving God, but in such a way as to suit themselves; who desire to impose rules upon God as to His manner of drawing them to Himself. They want to serve and possess Him, but they are not willing to be possessed by Him.
  • The selfish man cuts away the sand from under his own feet, he digs his own grave; and every time, from the beginning of the world until now, God Almighty pushes him into the grave and covers him up.
  • O Lord, self-renunciation is not the work of one day, nor children's sport; yea, rather in this word is included all perfection.
  • Think about yourselves; about what you want, what you like, what respect people ought to pay to you, what people think of you; and then to you nothing will be pure. May God keep our hearts pure from that selfishness which is the root of all sin.
  • We can neither change nor overpower God's eternal suffrage against selfishness and meanness.
  • There is a sickly habit that men get of looking into themselves, and thinking how they are appearing. We are always unnatural when we do that. The very tread of one who is thinking how he appears to others becomes dizzy with affectation. He is too conscious of what he is doing, and self-consciousness is affectation. Let us aim at being natural. And we can only become natural by thinking of God and duty, instead of the way in which we are serving God and duty.
  • We are too much haunted by ourselves; we project the central shadow of ourselves on every thing around us. And then comes in the gospel to rescue us from this selfishness. Redemption is this — to forget self in God.
  • Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.
  • If we look only to self even in spiritual things, it is still selfishness though possibly on a somewhat higher plane than before.

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