Selflessness

The Rough Road to the Good Life

Selflessness is Gobal

This is the Chinese symbol for "selflessness" in traditional Chinese. This picture shows selflessness is not just an American idea, moreover, it is universally known. Phileda was an American who went overseas and expressed selflessness, but the Chin people expressed selflessness to her as well. Although selflessness may not be considered human nature, it is not limited to one part of the world.

"War time with all its horrible aspects also has a way of bringing out the good in people what one might call other-centered as opposed to self-centered" (Rough 88)

This is a quote from Phileda. In the middle of her mission to the Chin hills, WWII broke out. Most would assume this war would cause selfishness to surface, but the Chin people and the Nelson's all showed unconditional selflessness. They all went against society's expectations and found a way to help others, often before one helped him self. This quote is Phileda pointing this wonderful mindset taken by these people.

Humble Yourself or Stumble Yourself

In order to become selflessness, you must humble yourself. The best known practice to humble one's self is to wash another's feet. This is what was done by Jesus in Bible times, and has continued to be a traditional practice of humility In the novel, Phileda and Franklin had to humble them selves in order to help and work with the Chin people. Although they did not physically wash the feet of the natives, Phileda and Franklin took up many trades. In fact Phileda said Franklin was "the Jack-of-all trades. He served as teacher, preacher, mechanic, treasurer, writer, plumber, carpenter, tin smith, printer, mailman, and now dentist" (209). All of these trades were outside of their comfort zone and they had to humble them selves by failing at first at some of these trades. By being reliant through these tough situations, they were able to exemplify selflessness. This selflessness was constantly present because they were constantly helping others.

"He spent no time in self pity but on the contrary, he traveled extensively and did much for other people" (Rough 202)

This is a quote about Dr. Ewald Chalburg who was a selfless man in the novel. He spent his time trying to visit Phileda and Franklin even when it was near impossible. As the quote says, Dr. Chalburg thought of others before himself and did not bring attention to himself when he was in a tough situation. His character is exactly what is thought of if one were to describe a selfless person.

Giving it up for Someone Else

In most cases something is given up when one is selfless for another. In the case of the novel, many people gave up different things which were important to them. This was true for Phileda's mother, "She had the long train trip home all alone. Yet she remained brave" (Rough 5). She gave up her daughter. Phileda and Franklin gave up all the comforts of the United States; everything from familiar food to public school for their daughters. They gave something up for others' gain. This is what selflessness is; this picture shows someone giving up their race to help another. The people in the novel did the same; in every case, in the novel and modern day, this happens.

"He kept nothing for himself" (Rough 260)

The definition of selflessness it to have little concern for one's own needs or interests. This quote shows just that. The fact Zam Khan Lian shared everything he had, even if it was little, exemplifies his selfless character. Zam Khan Lian put everyone before himself and this was his nature. The quote explains his entire life and can be used as another definition for selflessness.

Avicii - Hey Brother
This song by Avicii connects not only with my theme of selflessness, but also to my novel. The lyrics, "If the sky comes falling down for you, there's nothing in this world I wouldn't do" show, no matter the circumstances, the singer would protect this person with their life. The stress the singer gives of their love and protection for the other person is how Phileda and Franklin felt toward their children. Later in the song Avicii sings, "What if I'm far from home? Oh, brother I will hear you call" to show at all times he is willing to be selfless for the other person. This was true in the novel because the family and friends of Phileda and Franklin continued to support them even when communication was limited. After these lyrics, the singer writes, "What if I lose it all? Oh, sister I will help you out!" to again express at all times he is willing to be selfless for the other person in any position he may be in. This is the same for the Chin people in the novel who had little. These people gave much to Phileda and Franklin in return to what was given to them. Giving is a great example of selflessness, and giving was used in the novel and the song.

Characters to Remember

Selflessness: in the Beginning

Selflessness is shown to Phileda and Franklin by the two of them devoting their lives to the mission field and leaving everything they have in America, including family. In the beginning, the two of them had to try to be selfless because it was not 100 percent natural to them at this point in time. Phileda and Franklin gave up much and got little bad, yet they continued.

Both her parents, especially Phileda's mother, are selfless in their allowing their children to go into this field with possible dangers, little communication, and little medical supplies. They knew it would not be as comfortable as life in America, yet they allowed them to go to better others' lives and pour out their love to others.

Selflessness: in the Middle

Phileda and Franklin were selfless in their teaching and interactions with the Chin people: inviting them into their home, staying even after kids, coming back after World War II, and working in many areas of expertise (doctor, dentist, Carpenter, etc.). They gave every part of them to the Chin people whenever they were needed. There were cases when Franklin or Phileda felt they had no more to give, but they found a way to give. These two did not hold anything back and lived lives of selflessness all the time.

The Chin people were also selfless by giving back to Phileda and Franklin. The Chin people built a new house for Phileda and Franklin after the Japanese invasion which destroyed their house and everything in it. They also shared knowledge of plants and use of nature for Franklin to be a better doctor with what was available in the area. The Chin people were welcoming to Phileda and Franklin, and also caught the contagious action of selflessness.

Selflessness: in the End

Phileda and Franklin are selfless all throughout the novel. They lived their lives for others; this did wear on them when Franklin was the "jack of all trades" (202) always doing something for somebody. At the end of the novel, being selfless was a lifestyle for Phileda and Franklin. They did leave in the last chapter. It can be considered selfless because they were thinking for the best of their three daughters even though they wished to stay with the Chin people.
The answers about this theme throughout the novel are similar because Phileda and Franklin were consistent with their selflessness. The situation they were and was easy or hard, they would be selfless others before them. Historically, people of this time period were able to be the true them; no one had to fake their personality.

The main cause for the theme within the novel is the model of living Jesus Christ gave and the fact Christians desire to live like Christ. Phileda and Franklin were Christians and they devoted their lives to be missionaries for Christ to spread His word. This spread to the Chin people, who also became Christians and selfless.


This novel also shows you have to do something to be selfless and work for it.

Many people are self-centered nowadays. The media and everything around tells one to think of himself than others, but this novel says the opposite. This novel was copyrighted in 2000; because this novel was recently written, it shows the opposing views from that of the media. Also it shows the idea of selflessness has not died; rather, it is still valued today.