An Altruistic Life

altruismNot too many would argue with the notion that a high degree of altruism is a fundamental component of real happiness.

The problem with altruism is that the most altruistic are often smothered by the most demanding and self-absorbed personalities. This dynamic requires a mature altruism in which the giver addresses only real needs, and also establishes and maintains a weaning mechanism for the self-absorbed. In very few cases does a perpetual pacifier for the chronically selfish result in happiness for the giver. This has the clinical tag “co-dependence”.

Therefore, a wise giver must be self-aware enough to understand their own limitations, and also be aware of which of the needy are most worthy of assistance. The worthy are likely not the ones with their mouths opened widest. Altruism produces the most satisfaction with a wisely targeted focus and a measured outpouring of time, money and energy.

Guilt is often the enemy here. It seems we can never do enough. And the most egregiously selfish are first to remind us, often calling the giver selfish or moving the goalposts impossibly narrow with demands of “unconditional love”. This form of guilt is irrational, and should be dismissed, as well as the guilt-mongerer. Someone who habitually and continually prods others for increasingly more can most likely only learn though isolation. Let them flounder alone in their egotism until they also learn to give. And do this guilt-free. You owe them nothing.

A long practice of healthy altruism is a long life of happiness.


2 thoughts on “An Altruistic Life

  1. This is a very interesting perspective on altruism. From my perspective, altruism does not result in what you might call “compassion fatigue” when the act is expressed without an attachment to the results of the act. Put another way, an altruistic act is sustainable when there is no expectation of a returned favor.

    I recently posted a short story on love and altruism for your health on the Harbor Wellbeing blog, check it out!

    Thanks for posting such a poignant topic =D

    • Thanks for commenting.

      The movie “Precious” is a good example of the type of excessive altruism I’m referring to. Trying to accommodate the impossible demands of someone you care about is self-destructive.

      In your blog post you stated…

      “You get what you give, and when you give the right kinds of altruistic love and compassion, you instantly get those qualities returned, that love grows in your own heart.”

      While placing significant value on altruism, I have to disagree with you. You do not always get what you give. There are some humans out there willing to take advantage of altruism.

      Do you think it was right for Precious to walk away from her abusive mother, or do you think her form of altruism towards her mother was insufficient? I feel that, had her decision come earlier, she would have salvaged more of her life.

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