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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What is True Altruism?

One time as I decided to research on altruism on the Net, I found myself disturbed by other people's impressions. Some comments define altruism as "the desire to please others." I found it disagreeable because I hate pleasing other people. Yeah, no kidding, it's one of the things I hate doing the most. But aside from that, I've heard people advise, stop trying to please everybody. In addition, pleasing others in not necessarily doing good. I agree with this. But why is pleasing others not necessarily good? Isn't that a show of love of others in the Christian manner, as some would say?

Let's examine that. How to we define altruism? defines it as, "the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others." Note, the welfare of others may include the emotional state, but not always. You can please others, but it does not necessarily improve their welfare. It can also be done for selfish purposes. For example, you want to flatter a person for her beauty, Also, politicians do a lot of pleasing other just so they can create connections to pull strings. A lot of asshole men please women so they could get a partner for bed, and them leave them once a baby is made. Thus, pleasing others is not altruism.

People will just tell you that pleasing others is a Christian act. No, that it just not true. In explaining  the Christian concept of altruism or love of others, let's look how Jesus Christ defined it. Speaking from the other person's point of view: "I was naked, you gave me clothes, when I was hungry, you fed me, when I was homeless, you took me in," (paraphrased quote). Now realize: he was referring to seeing people's needs. Not their wants.

Jesus even criticized the Pharisees because they were asking people to please them, and not for holy reasons! The Pharisees also tried to please certain people (like the Romans) for selfish purposes, and they deserved Jesus' scolding. Thus, it implies that Jesus does not necessarily reward pleasing other people. He implies that pleasing others is NOT part of the act of loving your fellowman. It's pleasing God that matters. Seeing to others' needs pleases God, but seeing to others' desires can feed ego and lead to wrongdoing.

For example, if a wasteful friend wants to borrow from you, or ask you to help him steal from your neighbor, and you refuse, he has no right to get mad at you and accuse you of not loving your friend or brother. If he wants you to please him, he is selfish and only seeks his own glory. If you try to please this person, you are not just being foolish in trying to please another person, but also being an accomplice to his pride and sin.

The principle is that true helping of other people should be done to their needs, not to their wants or vanities. In fact, the Bible, although in an indirect fashion, WARNS against desiring to please other people. Timothy spoke of a time when people will not believe in sound doctrine, but what their itching ears want to hear. These people want to be pleased. So who will please them? Other people too, who will abet the sin of the people who don't believe in sound doctrine.

There is another side to this: pleasing other people first is encouraged because it is better to put others before yourself first. This is a misquote. The Bible passage about it does not say that you must put others before yourself. It says you put others with yourself. All versions render Jesus Christ's famous exhortation as "Love your neighbor as yourself." Note: as. Not "Love your neighbor more than yourself." No! That's completely different. And completely wrong.

Serve others, but never forget yourself too. Jesus' words imply that even though you love others, you still love yourself. Because if you hate yourself, or don't love yourself at least, then you're still not loving God's creation: you. The self is part of God's creation. We were made in God's image and likeness. If we don't love ourselves, then we refuse to love God's creation. It would be an insult to God.

Even in the secular field of ethics, experts would agree that pleasing people is not entirely ethical. What if you please someone else who wants to do something evil? For example, pleasing someone who wants many women (you bring him the women) or pleasing someone who wants many people he hates murdered is wrongdoing. Also, even secular ethics agrees that while helping others, such as seeing to one's own needs, is also morally good, since if one forgets one's own needs and gets sick , incapacitated or dead after, then he will not be able to help others again!

So there's the practical side. If you want to help others, help yourself too. Maintain the healthy balance between the self and others so that true altruism will be achieved. Also, take out to the rubbish bin the idea that pleasing others is love of others. If you please others, and their pleasure is evil, then you help promote wrongdoing. Even if you please others in a good way, there's no special reward from that except from the person himself.

1 comment:

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