I’m not sure why I felt compelled to write about this subject; other than: I couldn’t stop thinking about it, I started typing out my thoughts, & suddenly it became a blog post. I guess it’s also because I had it ingrained in my head at an early age that people are important & that you should help them whenever you can.
I recently started thinking, altruism is an extreme of “good” that actually leads to negativity. By being altruistic you’re purposely making yourself worse just to make others better. This leads to a cycle where you feel worse about yourself that reaches the point where you see any form of benefit to yourself as a waste. From this good intention you end up with negative feelings that grow & spread to those involved in your life, which in the long term makes the world a sadder place for everyone.
I thought more about it (& looked up a more accurate meaning of it) & realized I just had a common misconception of it. Altruism & self sacrifice/harm are not the same but it’s easy to confuse the two, as helping others typically involves giving up something of your own. Altruism, from my better understanding of it, is putting the concerns of others above the concerns of yourself; nothing more than that.
So I started wondering, what denotes ‘true’ altruism, which lead to questions like these:
- Say you have a friend who wants to help you. If their concern is to help you using their own resources, is it more altruistic to deny help (so they can use their resources elsewhere) or to accept their help (so they feel good about themselves for helping you)?
- Is it more altruistic to step down from an important position (so another can reap the benefits of it) or to stay (because you know that you can help more people in that position than from outside it)?
- If someone wants you to give them something you own, just for personal gain, is it more altruistic to hand it over (make them feel better) or deny them (so they can learn a lesson about being purely selfish & not do the same thing to others)?
- Lastly, is it anti-altruistic to help yourself when it doesn’t concern or affect anyone else? I would say no as it allows you to do more altruistic things in the future. Simple answer, you can’t help others with negativity if you are negative.
I guess real altruism is doing what ultimately helps others whilst doing/causing as few negative things as possible, even if it ends up helping you.