In Monday’s post, I opened with the statement that we are all rationally, self-interested agents making choices for the betterment of our well-being. This cynicism, although I do believe it to be true, doesn’t paint a complete picture of our rational decision making.
We as humans hold strong family values. While it could be said that making decisions for the benefit of the family is also a self-interested venture, as the success of your family is an extension of your own success, there is at least some element of selflessness in the sacrifices we make for loved ones in particular.
This can be extrapolated to include any number of values which we as humans would sacrifice for. However, sacrifice alone does not imply an act of pure selflessness. While those who give to charity are sacrificing property of their own for the benefit of a stranger, they are still gaining a feeling of importance and generosity. It’s the effect that their charity has on themselves which drives this seemingly selfless act of giving.
At least, that’s the cynics way of thinking about it. Unfortunately, the raw truth behind our actions is not attractive. To keep ourselves grounded in more humane values we must choose to see the silver linings in acts of self-interest. We must check our skepticism and evaluate based on the qualities that make us human.
In doing so, the world becomes a much more pleasant place. We start to see the good in people as they help and be helped. It’s the Moms feeding their children, the neighbors watching out for neighbors, the mentors teaching their protege. Every day there are good people going out of their way to help someone in need.
To view the world in this way you must put the recipient in center frame. Their gain is wholesome and true. No one has been taken advantage of, there are no exploits. The giving party has not lost livelihood either. In fact, their interaction results in a net positive gain for everyone involved. It matters not if one party may benefit more than another, this win-win is enough to warm hearts and calm minds.
Ignorance is bliss, but the truth is ugly. Rather than go about the day as a cynic, second-guessing and constantly a skeptic, stressed from distrust and doubt, choose to see the qualities that make us more human. Act as selfless as you can and not only will the laws of mutually beneficial trade still be in your favor, but more importantly, your worldly view will become more positive.