The Self-Serving Bias

I’m watching a historical retrospective of Muammar Gaddafi from his overthrow of King Idris of Libya to the present day. One can see the emergence and then solidification of the self-serving bias.

Gaddafi starts out as a somewhat flexible character whose accession to power made a statement against the West. He saw the West as having humiliated the Arab world out of its support for Israel in the 1967 War. By the time he reached the present day, he was coralized, petrified, fossilized by his constant need to defend and glorify Muammar Gaddafi in order to hold onto the reins of power.

He holds onto it, as so many others do, by using the self-serving bias.

The self-serving bias is the tendency to glorify one’s self and criticize or minimize others. It is the tendency to play up one’s victories and successes and play down one’s failures and defeats. It is the tendency to excuse oneself for anything that doesn’t work and to blame our failures on others and to not excuse others for anything that doesn’t work, etc.

I suspect that we all have a sense of it. And in fact we see world leaders particularly, but even the corner grocer, engaging in it continuously.

But I see it in myself as well. And I want no part of becoming concretized through the use of it. But how to cleanse myself? My normal approach would be to be transparent about it. Doing so carries a cost.  One could be accused of being maudlin, narcissistic, etc. for even speaking out about one’s own self-servingness. But I think the risk is worth it.

When one succeeds, as Muammar Gaddafi did, success can have an impact on a person if one allows it. And that impact can be very difficult to resist. I can see how Gaddafi could become corrupted over years. But I watch myself flirt with corruption as well.

Let me give you an example and I do so to nail my foot to the ground and not become self-serving. I’m as surprised as anyone else that my blogsite has become a little popular. I’m just doing what I do. Mrs. Beckow’s little boy wanted to become a writer and evidently he has.

I had no idea what I wrote would become a success … a relative success. I’m not wanting to exaggerate. Now, recently, I felt myself moved in the direction of starting a discussion group for the readers who visit my site. I should probably say that Archangel Michael wanted to start the group since I felt pushed in that direction and I’ve known for years that he does the pushing. (In fact in a recent reading, he said that he wanted to start it.)

So we started up the group. But then I see that nice things are being said about me there. On one level I’m happy but on another level I feel uncomfortable. The self-serving bias is insidious and unforgiving. It sets in wherever something arises which one wants to hold onto. This good estimation was something which at one level I wanted to hold onto.

But the self-serving bias will fossilize a person no matter what their intentions are. I’m inclined to think that it is the primary corrupting agent in all of life and history: the tendency to want to glorify oneself, eventually at the expense of others. It is the primary weapon of ego, as far as I’m concerned. It is the house of ego: vainglory, hubris, pride.

And now I watch it beginning inside of me. And frankly I feel sickened. Have I gone this far in life avoiding it only to yield at this advanced date? I’m retired from work. I have successfully passed through the whole of my working life without succumbing to it. Am I going to succumb to it now? And yet, if I do not watch carefully, I could.

Here’s another instance, just to show you how it reconstitutes itself continuously.

I had a reading with my Boss, Archangel Michael. I asked him what the next step would be in raising the kundalini, which he had discussed in an earlier reading, and he replied: “It will continue, now that you are adjusted to that [earlier rise]. We will next bring it up the spine to the thoracic, then the neck, and then completely through you.”

Steve: All right, and can you give me an idea of the schedule for that?

AAM: Now we don’t want to overdo you.  How is tomorrow?

He has quite a sense of humor and said this with a note of glee.

Steve: Tomorrow is fine. Tomorrow is the thoracic?

AAM: Yes, and then we would keep that until after your debut, as it were: World Freedom Day. Yes, and then we would work on the rest next week.

And, sure enough, at 10:30 the next morning, I felt the kundalini rise and then it stopped at 12:00 in the afternoon, right in the middle of the shoulder blades. I felt drunk, exhilarated, giddy.

BUT my studies of enlightenment told me that, if the kundalini rises to the Fourth Chakra, one experiences “spiritual awakening” or “stream-entering.” Many people experience this first, fourth-chakra enlightenment as the seeing of a discrete, bright light. This can be thought of as a vision of the Christ, the Son of God, the Atman, or Self.

But I experienced nothing. And immediately, because I had mentioned this part of the interview publicly and said that the Boss had predicted a new rise in the kundalini past the fourth chakra (I am committed to sharing), I began to operate self-servingly.  Since no event of stream-entering had occurred and “should have,” should I just not mention the topic altogether, even though I had mentioned it previously? Should I explain exactly what had happened and what had not? Should I say that my understanding of the kundalini may not be accurate?

Or, and here comes the self-serving bias, should I very subtly imply that AAM was wrong?  Ooooo, the serpent raises its ugly head. What we won’t do to appear successful.

Whenever a situation like this arises, one has an opportunity to look at one’s tendencies and I was dismayed to see that the self-serving bias had gained a foothold in me.

I now had this successful blogsite and was watching a newly-opened discussion group take root, in which people were saying nice things about me. I needed to defend what was a growing “empire.” I needed to start speaking self-servingly. I needed to swagger and get my own growing self-importance. I had abandoned Gandhi and was following Gaddafi.

Well, if I did start down that road, I would begin the process of concretization. My awareness would begin to shut down. I would silently and gradually turn from being an open and transparent person into one who created a story about himself, in which he was the local hero, and all disappointments and defeats would be blamed on others. I would move from being flesh and blood to being stone.

I would follow so many lightworkers in a fall from grace. “Yah, he had something to say …. once.”

Having said all that, what’s the moral of the story?

It is this: What you and I are involved in right now is too important to lose our grip on the factors that will bring us success. Failure would be all too easy and the rise of the self-serving bias is perhaps the largest single factor that would cause our failure in our attempts to accomplish anything of importance.

The self-serving bias is perhaps the worst virus among all viruses, the most silent, the most inconspicuous, the most deadly. In the beginning it is invisible but in the end it is obvious. Just look at the Libyan dictator.

I hear one lightwalker calling himself the “father” of a field, another calling himself the sole representative of the galactics on Earth. Balderdash. We’re here in a common enterprise and it isn’t for the purpose of empire-building or self-flattery.

I don’t matter.

I say that to strike a blow at self-servingness.

It’s a simple fact: The “I” does not matter. The ego serves a caveman, but it doesn’t serve us.  We want to aid world freedom and achieve unitive consciousness. I don’t want myself to succumb to the self-serving bias and so I declare that fact, flat out. I declare it publicly. I don’t want an empire. I don’t want to be influential. I don’t want to be flattered.

I want to realize the purpose of life – to know my true identity. I want to accomplish what God intended me to accomplish – to serve others and know love and compassion. I am as liable as anyone to succumb to the self-serving bias and so I declare that to all and sundry in the hopes that you will keep me honest if I perchance forget.

We are building a world that works for everyone. We are dismantling an elite structure that exists around the world and keeps people enslaved and hurting. We are empowering people to live freely and enjoy life abundantly. There is no room for vainglory in this work and I remind myself of that. I don’t want to be self-serving.  I will not do so.

I want to live in a world that works, among people who are empowered and happy. In the realization of that vision, I do not matter, but we matter. We will push through and accomplish that vision. We will. Together, with no one of us more important than another, with no one’s accomplishment raised above another’s, we will build that new world.

(Thanks to Laura for transcribing the reading with Archangel Michael.)

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