“Dad, is not sharing a bad thing?”

It depends.

Remember we talked about values and how you should evaluate your options according to the values they represent?

“Yes, thinking about which value is more important to me”

Correct, so let’s think about sharing in the same way.

Is sharing important to you? what’s good about it and what’s not so good about it?

“One one hand, I want to share my things with other people because it is fun, but sometimes I just want to keep my stuff to myself”

You described two cases.

In the first one, it seems like there is no problem for you to share and you even enjoy it. The fun you get from playing with your friends and seeing them enjoy as well, is greater than your need to keep your stuff to yourself or play alone. It is a win-win situation. No problem there.

In the second one though, it seems like you feel obligated to share while you really do prefer to keep your things to yourself. Right?

“Exactly, sometimes kids tell me I am being selfish by not sharing, and it hurts my feelings”

OK. So let’s talk about this case. If you decide that you prefer not to share something with a friend because it is more important for you to use that something now than the implications of not sharing it – then it is totally fine.

“But then my friend might call me selfish”

Let’s think about what it means to be selfish.

Let’s go back to the idea of deciding what the right thing to do is, according to what value the alternative holds to you. So first of all, everything that you do should be contributing to your long-term life and happiness. It is not your job to take care of other people’s happiness unless they are a value to you, and in which case, they contribute to your happiness.

So all of us should be selfish in everything that we do – this is how we make our lives and the people we care about better.

“So what about other people? Don’t they count? Shouldn’t we care for them?

I didn’t say that. First, making yourself happy for the long-term might mean that you to take care of other people including your family, friends and even people you don’t know if you value their life and happiness. In  most cases, the price and effort you’ll need to invest will be lower than the value you’ll get from helping out or sharing.

When you make a decision if to share or donate something, you should think about your long-term happiness. If you don’t share and don’t help, it might harm your happiness for the long-term. You need to be rationale about your values and your choices. It will be wrong to guide your choices by whims or impulses or without weighing the long-term consequences.

“So sharing is good if you decide it is good for YOU.”

Good for you for the long-term. Don’t feel obligated to give if the price you are paying is higher than what you gain from it. It basically means trading values, but we will talk about some other time.

“So I shouldn’t be offended when someone calls me selfish?”

If they call you selfish then it means you chose not to give them what they wanted. It means you are already paying a price. If this price is worth paying because what you’re being asked to give is of greater value – then it is totally fine not to share. And tell them that selfishness is a virtue because every time we eat or drink, we choose to keep ourselves alive vs. choosing to give it away to poor people in Africa or something. Selfishness is what keeps us alive. It is fine to help, donate and give charity because we want a better society to live in. But guess what? Why are we doing it?

“Because it is good for us – I get it Dad”

So, will you change something about the way you think about sharing?

“I think so, I will think about what it means to share or not and what will happen if I choose one way or the other”

It might not be an easy decision, but if you think about it hard then you will be good either way – if you choose to share, you’ll understand why you’re doing it and what good it brings you. If you choose not to, you’ll know why and will not be offended if someone calls you selfish.”

“That makes sense. So why are you sharing all of this with me?”

Because I love you and talking to you now makes me way more happy than reading my emails.

Go to sleep it’s getting late.

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