Altruism: For Self Or For Others?

Altruism (noun): unselfishly concerned for or devoted to the welfare of others (opposed to egotistic)

Here's a question for your next dinner party or when you're in dire need of a conversation starter: Can you really do good things for others with absolutely no selfish intent? Can your motive be completely pure when you perform an act of kindness? Just as human beings are quite complex, so the answer may be as well.

When people jump in front of someone else to save them from some sort of immediate danger, I highly doubt they are doing so because they know they'll feel "good" afterwards. It was their instinct to protect and to think of someone else's life other than their own. On a less extreme scale, when someone pays for the person behind them in the drive-thru, maybe they do have some sort of "selfish" motive; people know that they'll feel pleased with themselves after performing a good deed for others.

But in the end, does it really matter? We all are human and, as a result, naturally selfish to some degree. It isn't always our inclination to help someone at the expense of our own time and energy. And yet, people still do. In most cases, whether we are aware of it or not, there is probably some trace of selfish ambition. Like I said, we may even be unaware of such motive ourselves. But as long as we are going out of our way to help others and be intentional in acts of kindness, does it really matter the motive?

For self or for others? That is the question in this case. Even if altruism if partially for self, isn't it also partially for others too? Just some food for thought.

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