Is altruism selfless or selfish? How does altruism actually work? We don’t have to give up parts of ourselves to become part of something bigger. That just naturally happens. Gladly, when done right.
Altruism has become big business, but it’s so much more than that. In the search for clarity, I found a desire to shift my thinking. In my shift for intellectual understanding of humanity, I found a need to do so. Altruism, for me, has been one of the great tests of human character.
When someone clarifies that they are trying to, “help the needy”, my shackles go up. If they are referring to individuals as “needy” they’re not helping them, they are insulting them. If they’re only doing it to gain attention or win awards, they are not entirely invested emotionally, which can lead to not fully caring about the end result.
When a group wants to help out an individual, a family or a cohort of people, but then puts the faces, names and stories of those underserved, or less fortunate on the cover of their glossy advertising, they say, “here, look at these unfortunate souls, and look at how Nobel I am for helping them”, which in turn, can also cause a great deal of emotional harm.
How much humility must the poor swallow, just to get a hand up, for example?
There is a nuance to the way we volunteer. A gracious communication one must experience as part of our own growth, for it to fully succeed.
For the past five weeks, I have been a volunteer kitten foster mom. When newborn or recently born kittens are brought to the local animal shelter. I wanted to do something to give back to society, while also satisfying a need to nurture for myself.
I ended up fostering five 3-week old kittens, and then, their mom and then, for one night, and additional five 2-day old kittens. It was all consuming. It was also very satisfying. It helped me to realize that I really like taking care of the vulnerable who can give nothing back. Except of course, love.
I’ve always had a policy of helping out whom and where I can. I have never talked about it. I did the right thing without any rewards because I believed that would be the most satisfying way to volunteer my time.
There is a happy medium. Helping others is an amazing journey. Doing so in order to expand our own understanding of self, while also feeling the pure joy of the moment of helping? As warm and fuzzy as a fragile kitten.
Celebrate yourself for volunteering. You deserve it. Celebrate the beings that you volunteer to help. They also deserve it.
When you help with an open heart and open mind the experience flows more whole heartedly.
Peace and Love,
About the Author: Karen Henry [Daly], MA CRM owns Henry Healing as a holistic well-being practitioner and writer. She’s a former university professor and current scholar practicing the infusion of positive, existential and community psychology.
“We Are The Positive Psychology People”