The other day, dad donated some money, and came home and boasted about it. My mother rebuked him with a ”If you are giving something in the name of God with one hand, you should be so discreet, that even the other hand should not come to know”. (Giving to the poor is equal to giving to God – no doubt a smart belief of major religions to encourage helping the economically backward)
That is all well, I thought to myself. But why do we insist on such pureness of spirit from someone who helps? It’s as if, in the back of our minds, we feel that either the person be a complete angel and be secretive about altruistic behaviour, or if he can’t shut up about it, then he is better of not helping people.
Some people told me that if this is not insisted upon, people will not help in order to help, but to gain fame and to tell everyone how nice they are. So, the spirit of helping is lost. People should only help when they really want to, or let it be.
Now, I had a chapter on Helping behaviour in Social Psy last year, and the reasons we help, according to the author of the book (based on lots of research and studies) are –
1. It feels good to help others.
So basically, its a selfish act. We do it, because we feel good. Like eating or watching porn. Only difference being, it involves other humans.
2. It reduces our negative feelings.
Helping others gives them joy, and gives us a relief from negative emotions.
3. Helping is an accomplishment.
I helped someone, so i’m the cool dude.
Oh, you donated 10k? I will donate 15k. Who is the better helper now, huh?
5. Kin selection theory –
I will help those who maybe related to me, or those, who will benefit the world if they are helped. E.g, save a young woman first in an emergency situation, because she may bear children which helps continuity of mankind.
Ok, so some of these motives are nice, some are not. My mother, for example, would not agree to helping if it were any of those above, except out of the pure goodness of ther person’s heart.
But I feel, that no matter why you help, you certainly are helping. You gave the beggar food, for whatever reason, but the fact remains that you helped him to have a meal. His stomach, as well he himself, will be thankful to you, regardless of what your motives are.
I think its about time we overcome this “either be a noble helper or no helper at all” psyche and accept people who help as well as boast about it. Why shouldn’t they? Isn’t helping an achievement in this world of cut-throat competition, when no one looks kindly at fellow humans?
If they took out the time, money to be kind, they have all right to be proud of this achievement, just like they would of winning a prestigious award.
Further, I also feel that if such people were accepted, many more people than currently do would act in helping, prosocial manner.
Lastly, the argument that, unless done purely, they might help only to show-off, and so it will be a one-time act and not a continuous act of helping. I feel that precisely the opposite is true.
When only you are to experience the joy of giving in privacy, you may experience it twice, maybe thrice. But since you can’t tell other people, your motivation will keep lowering and secret self-joy won’t be enough to push you.