Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Why do Good People Walk Away?

Altruism is defined as the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. In other words, it is the behaviour of something that benefits another at its own expense.
Altruistic persons stand in harm's way for others. Call it taking one for the team, etc.

We have looked at altruism in the past, on The Walkabout. Today, we seek to find out if altruism in in fact absolutely unconditional.

Naturally, good people are expected to do good to others without expecting anything in return. These are the people who will free their time for you, whereas every person else attends to you in his or her free time.

But why do people stand in the gap for others in the first place?

People will help either because it distresses them to see another person in trouble, or because they actually empathize.
It is worth noting at this point that altruism, and deeds borne out of empathy should not be irrevocably harmful. In other words, while there is always a cost to genuine empathic acts, it should not be fatal, or altogether damaging.

Otherwise, it becomes mindless altruism.

Truly Unconditional?

Is it then possible to continue doing good in perpetuity, or are good things dependent on something?
In the Bible, God is portrayed as eternally loving, with his kindness enduring forever.

For Jehovah is good; his lovingkindness endureth for ever, And his faithfulness unto all generations.
- Psalm 100:5 (ASV)

Oh give thanks unto Jehovah; for he is good; For his lovingkindness endureth for ever.
- Psalm 136:1 (ASV)

But there is a caveat. You cannot continue doing what you please and expect Him to not do something about it. The following is just one of the things awaiting those who do not live according to the will of God.

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:
21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
- Romans 1: 18-21 (KJV) 

I'll take vengeance on them, punishing them severely in my anger. They'll know that I am the LORD when I take my vengeance on them.
- Ezekiel 25:17 (ISV)

God may be all-knowing and all-good, but He expects something in return.

It's Only Human

Human beings, too, are not far-removed from this. Even the most generous and benevolent among us wish to see some return for extending a helping hand, for investing emotionally or materially in another person's woes and hence saving the day. 
Appreciation is at the top of what is naturally expected of those who are assisted.

As depicted in the top graphic, reciprocity both encourages more good acts and enhances cordiality.

Creating meaning is another thing that any good person would hope for. 
Nobody wants to do meaningless acts, no matter how good they are. No person would be happy to dig up holes, only to fill them with soil even if there is pay attached to the act. A person in such a situation will feel used, as a means to a meaningless and demeaning end.

The Deal Breaker

Human nature is such that people are mostly predisposed to abuse privilege. Many people, after getting what they want, mostly indulge.

A common problem those who set out to help others often experience is the unrealistic demands and a sense of entitlement that quickly develops in those being assisted. At this point, favors are now seen as responsibilities of the part of the giver. Unwarranted demands are placed on those who opted to help out of the kindness of their hearts. To a point where the same needy persons will become vengeful if help is delayed or no longer forthcoming.

When good people are taken advantage of and they do nothing about it, they endure the same thing that happened to a certain Arab in this Aesop's fable:

Faced with such a situation, a good man will say enough is enough and hit the road. No sane person would tolerate the insolence of ungrateful souls whose primacy is in taking advantage, abusing privilege and developing an unnecessary and inappropriate self of entitlement.

In some circumstances, it is always advisable to let go, learn the lesson and move on.

* * *

Sometimes, it becomes necessary to walk . . .


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