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 . . .

Friday, June 5, 2015

How many People Read my Blog?

Let's love ourselves then we can't fail
To make a better situation
Tomorrow, our seeds will grow
All we need is dedication
- Lauryn Hill.

Just how many people read this blog?
I honestly do not know. And more important, I am not bothered.
I'll tell you why.

A little over a month ago, my friend JMN clicked through to The Walkabout after connecting with me on Facebook. She took hours to read a large number of posts, all of which, she later confided, were worth her while. She even bookmarked this site.

She then asked me if this blog was listed on BAKE or the Kenyan Bloggers Facebook page and Twitter list. "No, it's not," I replied.
She happens to be strongly persuaded that such content should be actively shared and seriously promoted, thanks to its timeless and edifying nature. That this is something everyone needs to read... That my blog should be winning awards!

True, and very right for a reader to think that way. But a writer shouldn't.
Let me explain.

Blogging 'then' and 'now'

You see, I started blogging back in 2006, on WordPress.com. At the time, there was the KBW and Afrigator blog aggregators. Guys actively read blogs, shared links and at the time, Intense Debate meant literally that. Comment Luv was for real. Bloggers wrote often.

Then Facebook and Twitter happened.

I personally experienced a major slump in the number of blogs that were now regularly updated. With so much information coming in on the FB Newsfeed and Twitter TL, our attention spans were severely diminished.

Upon joining the aforementioned social networks, I too started posting less.
Then something much worse happened to web traffic to my blogs. No, the hits or page views or unique visits - whatever you wish to call it - did not reduce.

The real problem was increased bounce rate (a visitor leaving so soon after kanding on a site), which means that less time was now being spent on the site.
Not that the quality of the posts was wanting. In any case, it keeps getting better. It so happened that people no longer read the entire post. They are either perpetually distracted or invariably in a hurry.

You can now see what prompted my firm decision to reconsider my audience.

Blogging is Personal

I therefore started writing for just one person. I stopped obsessing with hits and Google Adsense cheques. I dispensed with the comments. I stopped looking at the backlinks, trackbacks and my Alexa ranking. To this day, I still have Analytics installed on the blog but all I take a look at, and very rarely, is the bounce rate and time spent on the site. Not by many people, but by my intended audience.
All that matters to me now is engagement.

So what or who is my intended audience?

I now write for just one person. You.
You who reads a post in its entirety and ponders it. You may not share it and won't even be able to comment. But you actually take the time to read it all. Most likely, you go ahead and read a suggested/related post. That done, you now look forward to the next post, hoping that it will be soon. 
The single person may even be myself (yeah, I read my own posts a lot, especially past posts).

When I write for one person, I feel like I am having a one-on-one sitdown with you. In this way, the so desirable situation that Alanis Morissette sings about in Utopia is almost realized.

Each day is a new beginning.
Another chance to learn more about ourselves,
And to care more about others.
In sum, that is why I am not hoping to win a blogging award. Because this blog should win your heart instead. I'm not seeking popularity or media mentions. I'd rather The Walkabout earns the attention and trust of just one reader, not fleeting eyeballs and hits. It is for similar reasons that I removed the comments plugin, for I prefer that what you read here prompts you to have a meeting with yourself, a la Macy Gray's "there is a conversation I need to have with me, a moment with myself."
That is why, I do not care that many, many people may not read The Walkabout. Just one engaged reader is enough. Just you.

So go on, and read. The Walkabout is a journey of insight, inspiration and self discovery.
If a single post inspires you, if another post offers some insight, and if that same or other post helps you learn something about yourself or others, then my mission is accomplished.

That, and no more. And it is everything.

* * *

There is this lady who has a voice like no other. But that is not the important thing. It is her words - they have meaning, they make a difference and do add value. Her music is such a joy to listen to. Here is Lauryn Hill in Everything is Everything.


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