Today we revisit an episode of Friends…

Joey and Phoebe have discussion about altruism. Joey argues that everyone does something for a reason, even good deeds. Phoebe argues that people can be selfless and give just because.

I rarely agree with Joey, but this time I’m saying that Joey has the right idea. Maybe not 100%, but enough to say that most people don’t do things out of the goodness of their heart…

If a Girl Scout comes up to you on the street and asks for ten dollars, are you giving it to her? Or do you expect a box of cookies?

Donate money- get your name on a brick in the new entry level…

Get a tote bag to show that you are a supporter…

Win a raffle…

Silent auction…

Do people need to be enticed to give money to a cause?

As I mentioned a few months ago, the majority of the money I donated this year was to causes that my daughter or my niece have taken part in…I would never have chosen these particular charities without a personal connection…

How about your time?

Do you do it purely because you are a good person? I was a volunteer reading tutor for about ten years. Yes, I did it because to me, education is the great equalizer, and that road all begins with knowing how to read.

Did I do it because I wanted to help kids?

Sure.

But I did it more because I hoped that education would be the route out of poverty for some of these children. And less kids in poverty means less crime, less unwanted pregnancies, less addiction issues, less everything…

Sorry- but my underlying reason was that I just wanted to fix things that would cause me problems in the future…

I volunteered at my daughter’s schools- because I wanted her to get the best free, public education possible, thereby making it a better education for everyone…

But what do you think?

Do you think that people do things solely out of the goodness of their heart?

Or do you think there’s always a motive behind it?

And…

Can you consider “making yourself feel better” a motive to do good?

53 thoughts on “All For Altruism

  1. I used to ponder this…like when I’d see hospital buildings with people’s names on them..but you know what? If that’s what it takes, a bit of name recognition..or whatever…to get good things done..so be it.

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      1. I used to overthink it when the kids collected dimes every year for a Christmas fundraiser in middle school. The winning classroom got some weird, grade-related, bonus..so the competition was ugly- ferocious. I didn’t like that.. thought the message to the kids was “off.”

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      2. That’s just it…it’s like we need to be bribed to do good. My daughter ended up living to volunteer but in the beginning, she only did it because it was required…first for national honor society, then as part of her high school requirements. Now she just does, but in the beginning not so much

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      3. In retrospect, the schools fully promoted the idea of volunteering to serve your own aspirations.. there was always an ulterior motive..always a personal motivation and reward..always a T-shirt to advertise your involvement..it was gross. Meanwhile, I was trying to teach them the biblical concept that good deeds are done in quiet (Your right hand shouldn’t know what the left is giving etc..) and yet here I am, logging my volunteer hours so that they counted towards the school’s overall “grade”..a crock if there ever was one.. so yeah..I get it. 🤨

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      4. Logging the hours! Right! And then my daughters school started calling to confirm with the person who signed off on the forms. The park in my area was having a cleanup day and they put on the sign that no one would be available to sign off on hours….I mean, really

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      5. HAHA.. 🙄 Hey, I’ve got a park story..(stop me if I told you this one already..haha) so a kid working on his eagle scout badge in our little county got together with friends to clean the creek in the park…and…the union (of county park workers?) sued the county for letting them do it. I guess the kids stole their work..?

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      6. Hey, So I have a (totally unrelated) question..I just found my 2020 planner under a pile of old magazines in the corner of my living room.. are you getting a new one for 2021?

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      7. Yes. I got a new one. I went for a less expensive model though. And I have things in it. Well, I have my blog post schedule in it. Here’s hoping there’s a need for a better planner

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      8. I’m almost afraid to get one.. wonder if those companies have made adjustments to their offerings/lay-outs.. Now I’m curious, I’ll have to look..I mean what a challenge for a planner company..yikes.

        Liked by 1 person

      9. Oh, me too. I think we have reason to be optimistic..by this time next week, 4 of my family will have had their shots..granted, they all work at hospitals, but they are ALL in different states, so I’m still VERY, VERY impressed. I bet my mom will have hers by March..(she’s 89)

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      10. Huge project.. I can’t even imagine..and the whining has already begun, not surprisingly.. Anyway..what planner did you get? I seem to remember yours had stickers which I suddenly find very appealing.

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      11. This year I bought me by TF publishing and I actually found it on Amazon . Soft cover, spiral bound. It has the month on a page, plus a page for notes for the month. Then it’s one week on two page spread with whole block for Saturday and Sunday. I will probably put a pic in around New Years!

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  2. I think sometimes people with too much time, talents, or maybe, guilt volunteer just because they can and they do and some because it makes them feel more grounded. For some, volunteering gives a new career direction.

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  3. I think it’s impossible to not have a motive behind every good gesture. Even if the motive is just to get someone to smile. It’s the motivation of knowing you made someone happy. Of course, motives can also be selfish. Like you want recognition or something in return. To do something without a motive is an act more likely to occur with a robot. Just my opinion. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s true. Even a compliment about something has motivation. Though you just made me think of something- we were on vacation a few years ago and we were in a sightseeing spot. Some guy offered to take a picture of me with my family, but I like being behind the camera and not in pictures, so I said no thanks. My daughter said he was asking so I would offer to take his picture. And I said to my kid- well- he should just ask outright. I didn’t need the quid quo pro…

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  4. I think even good intentions have a motive. I came out of retired nursing and accepted an RN position in Public Health to vaccinate the masses. I have friends and family tell me what a blessing I am and what a good deed. The truth is though, yes I looked into it and accepted it because one of the reasons I accepted is I feel as an RN I would like to help and do my part. The motive with this good deed thought is my feeling needed and useful. But the driving motive behind it all, is I need to get out. I need the social interaction. Even though there is risk involved it is less risk than ER or Urgent Care. So what others see as an outwardly good deed, I see as a way to start living again!

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    1. I totally get it. You found a way to help others, yet help yourself at the same time. This is a win win for all involved. I guess sometimes what’s in our heart just needs a little push

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  5. Everyone has a motive but that doesn’t make it bad or that it is something that helps them directly. Yes, I volunteer my time as a board member for the local community farm because I think local organic produce is important and that type of farming should be encouraged, if you don’t donate time or money for something you believe in then it is just throwing money at a problem.

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  6. Good question. I can’t seem to NOT to reply to your posts, rather than just liking them. Anyway, it’s hard for most of us to do something out of pure love. Not many of us are saints. There is usually some measure of self-interest in the good deeds that we do. for others. To me, it doesn’t matter. What’s important is to do the good deed the best we can. And, Kudos to you for tutoring reading for ten years. You undoubtedly had a positive impact on many kids. Maybe you changed some lives for the better. If you had waited for a purely altruistic motive, this goodness would never have happened.

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  7. I think volunteering can add satisfaction to your everyday life. I volunteered for my kids activities too. When they left for college, I continued volunteering with a woman’s group and our swim team. I like the interaction with other adults and feel good contributing. Now that I’ve moved, I need to find a few volunteer projects to get out and meet people in the community with like minded interests.

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  8. The fact that there is a motive behind our good deeds is not a bad thing, necessarily.

    I would like to think people generally are good, and by and large I do believe that. But . . people are going to do what is best for them, it’s pretty simple. Now, this can be seen as selfish, but that’s simplifying it. It’s more a matter of survival. We do believe in a greater good but when we do something, it’s more about us and the people closest to us because that’s what we know. Not a bad thing.

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    1. We tend to want to protect our own so to speak. A friend of mines son has a rare genetic disorder. Her and her husband started a research foundation. Now, hopefully they will find out more about it, but it started out of relativity so to speak

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  9. I once supported a podcast on Patreon Because I was enticed by what give aways they offered per price tier, but then they both insulted me in a podcast for being someone intent on the delivery of goods expected as opposed to just supporting them and when promised an end of the year bag was sent a lot of bullshit. Now I support a fellow blogger on Patreon Because we’ve become friends.

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    1. The enticement of a tote bag has a certain allure. I once donated to pbs because I wanted the Miss Marple DVD set. But then I saw how much PBS wastes, so yeah….even they aren’t so altruistic

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  10. As a Christian I try to do things by letting the Spirit of God overflow through me. Based on Luke 18:19 only God is good. I am not. I want the goodness of God to overflow through me. If what I do looks like it might be good I deserve no credit for being “altruistic”. I merely accepted the privilege of letting the Spirit of God overflow.

    Of course there are those who don’t believe there is a Spirit of God. A 19th century non-theistic humanist, August Comte, originated the term “altruism”. He wanted to only rely upon himself, his own heart or his own goodness, since he acknowledged no God in his theory. That his theory led rationally to these paradoxes of motivation, which you expressed well, is evidence that his theory was inadequate. Or at least it was unsatisfying when it comes to moral action.

    If I did things out of the goodness of my own heart I would create a hell on earth which is how I view the modern philosopher Peter Singer’s effective altruism. So (hopefully) I don’t try, but rather let myself be available like the manger in Bethlehem for God to overflow as the bread of life. When I fail to do that, I make myself available again through repentance.

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  11. Hmmmm. Deep, LA. Okay. Here we go. I do believe that every action is a response of some kind, we can call this a reason, as Joey did. And, I believe these reasons, or reactions, live along a continuum. Meaning, they may range, let us say, form the completely selfish act, to the completely unselfish act. Yet, even the completely unselfish act, will still have some kind of reason, or reaction, behind it, such as service, or creating change in the world, or inspiring others, etc. Hm. That was fun. Thanks, LA, nice post.

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  12. I’ve always felt that there is no such thing as being truly selfless because ultimately people do things because it makes them feel better. Either because they think they can get something from it (like the girl scout example) or because there is a sense of moral guilt they feel they need to soothe. Even those that do things because they enjoy it are doing it because they get pleasure from it. Yes, others benefit from those actions, but the foundation for those actions are about doing something that benefits your self first.

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  13. I agree with Phoebe. I think it may be a combination now and then,but I think there are indeed plenty of wonderful people out there who give because it’s the right thing to do. If we’ve learned nothing else from this pandemic is that there are selfless people in the world. I have a niece who has worked in the ER non stop this year. She’s got permanent scars on her face from wearing masks for so many long hours. She has gotten rashes in places she doesn’t want to talk about, because she doesn’t get a break for hours on end. Especially when covid numbers go up and the hospital is understaffed, and she deals with UTI’s because she can’t leave critical or dying patients so she can go to the bathroom. I have a high school friend who is a recently retired medical doctor and he was asked to come back to work in a hospital ER where he lives because they were so short handed. He did. Some nights he’d message me when he got home to check on how I was doing since I had some pretty difficult months while in intense chemo. He’d be dead tired, talk about how difficult it was to be in the covid unit… and About a week ago he called and cried because he lost a cousin to covid. While he was working overtime hours to save lives he lost a family member. You can’t tell me he did it for the money. He doesn’t need money. He did it because he’s a good, caring human being. And first hand I can tell you I didn’t teach for the money. I’d stay til 7 or 8 o’clock at night at school creating lessons to help enrich children. I could have left at 3 but I owed it to my students to give them the best education possible. I did it because it was the right thing to do. I’m not alone. Many Teachers work extra hours, spend their own money, go above and beyond to meet the needs of individual students. It’s not for the money or the glory. So yes! In that field alone I met altruistic men and women daily. Nope. I’m with Phoebe on this.

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  14. I’m with the school of “if it benefits somebody else, do it” no matter what the reason or for no reason at all (at least not one that the doer of the deed could identify at the moment). I did things like this when my kids were young in the interest of setting a good example for them. It was also one of the few areas in which I thought I could set what I thought at the time would be a “good” as opposed to a “bad” example since I was and still am a generally sloth-like unhealthy nonathlete.

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