The idea of sacrificing oneself or one's values for the good of others has been aggressively promoted under the name "altruism." But in reality, altruism is impossible and makes no logical sense whatsoever because we are all one ... all in this together. What is truly good for one is good for all. What is truly good for all is good for one.
If we tried to sacrifice ourselves or our true interests, everyone would suffer the effects. For a deeper and more complete understanding of the insanity of the idea of altruism, click here: Just say "No!" to altruism
Another alternative which does not serve relationships is pursuing one's ego-vested interests (or the ego-vested interests of any number of people such as in a democracy). As this course repeatedly points out, the ego's ultimate interests are pain, sickness, suffering, and death.
That leaves the final alternative: non-ego (spiritual, enlightened) self-interest.
People who are experiencing an expanding awareness of their spirit (meaning less and less reliance on intellectualizing) would say one's real or spiritual Self (with a capital "S") is already enlightened and has an interest in mind that is not related to the ego-vested interests of one's earthly persona.
Those who still feel heavily drawn to intellectualizing might use the term "rational self-interest" and might say something like: "I'm not as sure about being in-touch with my spirit ... but I definitely want to stay rigidly loyal to science and reason."
These are differences in approaches to viewing, but no difference in the object being viewed. Whether one considers oneself to be "spiritual" or "rational" or somewhere in between, the recognition that one's own non-ego self-interest is indeed also everyone else's best interest (the highest good for everyone) is of key importance.
Using the magnifying power of a fictional story to clearly define and highlight the end result of enlightened people acting in their own self-interest vs. the end result of unenlightened people acting on altruistic or ego interests, Ayn Rand in her novel "Atlas Shrugged" illustrates the issue with uncanny clarity.
Since this lesson is taught almost nowhere else in our culture, Ayn Rand significantly serves mankind, as much as any great inventor or innovator. Her work offers a fundamental breakthrough in learning possibilities. Since thorough understanding of this issue is so crucial to the joyous success of our relationships, as well as to the creation of world peace, reading "Atlas Shrugged" is an assignment of this relationships course.
As you read "Atlas Shrugged" keep in mind the three alternatives mentioned above ... self-sacrifice, pursuing ego-vested interests, or acting in enlightened or spiritual self-interest ... and ask yourself which of the characters in the story promote self-sacrifice and living for others, who in the story is unconsciously pursuing his or her destructive ego-vested interests, and who is in reality being guided by his or her spirit of the joyous fullness of life.
Also as you read "Atlas Shrugged" stay bright and happy even though the world you will be reading about in the story is becoming a progressively darker and more unhappy place, eerily reminiscent of the world we see in the news media. Your job is to keep in mind that you are reading fiction. In fact, if some events in modern life seem very close in principle to events in the novel, you can stay in a happy spiritual frame of mind by asking yourself with a laugh: "What if everything the way I see things is fiction anyway?"
Finally, to train your mind to right thinking and right seeing you can say to yourself many times a day until it becomes second nature:
"I love my life and do not sacrifice myself to others ... or to my ego. My spiritual Self-interest is my guide."
Also available free of charge online:
Course in Political Miracles