How many people appreciate that you were alive? How many faces did you successfully craft a smile on? Altruism is something associated with philanthropy, selfless humanitarianism, and magnanimous charity. Frankly altruism is often associated with sacrifice, and this may be true but need not be, and more often than not is a matter of perspective (aspect). A couple of relevant definitions of the word Altruism:
- The principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others
- Behavior that may be a disadvantage to oneself but that benefits others of its kind
Altruism is a matter of community, an act or sacrifice that may or may not help you, but instead helps others. The thought that a rising tide lifts all boats. That warm fuzzy feeling that you get when you do something you KNOW is right!
It is generally universally true that those who help the most people achieve what they need and desire will quite simply have more people attend their funerals…
The more people willing to attend your funeral in the case of your death, the more likely you will achieve a level of happiness in life rarely experienced by many people today. The more people that would be willing to attend your funeral, the more likely you are to receive what you need, when you need it…whether you are aware of that need or not.
This may seem like a macabre notion, however the simple truth is that we all will die and those that love us, admire us and respect us will mourn our passing…assuming we have those that love us, admire us and respect us…
Happiness by Being Someone You Would Trust
Those that go through life giving of themselves generously and without demanding reciprocation will not only be loved, but will also be the benefactor of true happiness and fortune, in a meaningful sense.
It is of utmost importance that false altruism be avoided at all times. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve listened to bitch about how “nobody appreciates” them, or how everyone “takes them for granted”.
If those phrases are in conversations you have regularly, then I’m pretty sure that I can tell you that you are being falsely altruistic. Meaning that you may (or may not) be performing acts of kindness or charity for those you come into contact with, but your motivation is to capitalize on the act. In other words, you’re looking to “get something out of it”.
When you do something “nice” for someone else, it’s a gift. It is up to the recipient to determine it’s worth. Maybe they really don’t appreciate it…that’s their business not yours. Maybe you are assuming they don’t appreciate the act simply because they didn’t respond in the way YOU would, or that YOU would expect them to. Again, not your business, they will appreciate it, or they will not.
The point is, that THEIR appreciation of something YOU did is not up to you. You gave someone a gift, either tangible or of service, whether they appreciate it or not is none of your business. Feel good about it, if they truly do not appreciate it, then that’s on them. Move on and quit dwelling over things you cannot control. You are responsible only for YOUR motives. Do what is right, do what is expected, do unto others, and always be someone you would trust.
TRUE acts of kindness, empathy and sacrifice are performed without any notion of gain on the part of the actor. If you are consciously, or even subconsciously expecting some benefit from your act, then you aren’t acting sincerely and it quite frankly doesn’t count, or at the very least, counts significantly less.
This charitable concept of “giving back” is something that has its roots in evolution. You might ask; what possible benefit could there be from an evolutionary perspective in forsaking one’s own advantage in favor of other individuals or groups? I’ll tell you about three…
First…reciprocity. When you give or act unselfishly, a feeling of profound goodwill manifests not only in you, but in those you help…and even more profoundly, in those that witness the act.
There are those purists that would point out that you are in fact getting something out of it, making it a selfish act. For example, if you feel good about helping someone move, or giving a homeless guy a sandwich, is that not a benefit?
I would respond: If that’s your concern you’re overthinking it. Feeling good about doing something is natures way of saying great job! High Five! Well done! It’s how you know you are moving in the right direction.
You’ve likely heard of the concept “pay it forward”. Where a random act of kindness occurs, and the target of that act, instead of doing something in return for the person that initiated that act, performs a random act of kindness for someone else.
This is something that can actually grow, compounding and spreading across a city, state, and even country or the world. In essence it can “go viral” resulting in a cascading wave of good will.
This raises the bar for everyone that is benefited by or is a witness to an act or event and then in turn benefits someone else. People helping people can result in something so small as to make someone’s day a little brighter, or something so dramatic as saving someone from committing suicide because some level of hope is returned.
Second…natural selection. It is thought in many circles that groups of animals that engage in altruistic behavior among their members tend to have indirect benefits regarding survival.
Plainly stated, groups of individuals all watching out for one another and helping each other even when there is little to no direct benefit to the individual doing the helping tend to survive and thrive in a superior way to those that simply “watch out for number one”.
This can be seen in the animal kingdom (think meerkat’s) and in human societies alike (think donating to St. Jude or cancer research).
When a meerkat sounds the alarm because some predator is approaching, it prolongs the life of the members of the community and thus the community itself.
You may not benefit from your donations to cancer research, but you are potentially increasing the overall lifespan of myriad people within your community. As a species, we are programmed to help each other. Sadly, our popular media programs the opposite.
Altruistic People Typically Have More Sex
I’ll bet THAT got your attention…
Finally…sex! Altruism is sexy for many reasons including those outlined above. Women especially find men that openly display altruistic tendencies more attractive. Plainly put, people that are altruistic tend to copulate more (have more sex).
It comes back to a factor of evolution; a man or a woman that is altruistic is a lot more likely to selflessly share resources with the other and their children. This is especially true early on in relationships when affinity is newly realized, but make no mistake…men and women especially in established relationships are still judging whether consciously or not on many things, including how caring, empathic or giving their partner is.
This creates attraction (hint, hint)!
All of this and more is why this concept is one of the four most important concepts of being free, I mean REALLY free! Success is something many talk about, and precious few ever truly achieve. In fact, most of us don’t even know how to define success or freedom.
To break it down: Altruism is something you should be practicing every day. It’s not just working in a soup kitchen or donating money to charity. It’s the pursuit of helping everyone you come into contact with every day! The person who truly helps others helps themselves and he who laughs first…laughs last…because he never quit laughing.
Remember, freedom is a journey!