Altruism: the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others (opposed to egoism). (www.dictionary.com)
Way back in October I wrote a post on my five core values: simplicity, creativity, energy, enthusiasm and altruism. Since then I have been contemplating each one, exploring what they really mean for me and looking at how they can be incorporated into everything that I do.
My goal is to come up with personal manifesto. This is a purposefully slow process.
For today though I’m going to dive a little deeper into one of those core values: altruism.
What is altruism?
The dictionary definition at the top of the page is pretty spot on (as one would hope a dictionary would be) but for me altruism can be summed up as:
“giving, and helping others”
It really is that simple.
It’s about unselfish acts, about helping those in need, about giving and sharing what we have, in order to make the world a better place.
For years I was plagued by the “I, self, me” monster. I didn’t think about anything else other than satisfying my own (selfish) needs, often at the expense of others. This way of living didn’t serve me and ultimately made me very unhappy.
In having a spiritual awakening I discovered how fulfilling altruism could be. It resonated with me. It came from the heart (rather than the ego). It felt natural. I became passionate about it. Everything suddenly fell into place.
I learned that in helping others we help ourselves. There is only one of us in the (metaphorical) room. We are all one, and so what we do to another we do to ourselves.
In addition to the direct benefit the recipient receives, altruism and the acts of giving and helping others:
- make you feel good about yourself
- are rewarding (especially if you don’t expect anything in return)
- make the world (including your world) a better place
- make a difference
And all these things benefit you (as well as those you are helping).
I once heard it said that, “when A helps B; A feels better”.
I’ve also heard it said that when all the spiritual teachings of the world are stripped down to the bone that the message is the same, “love and service”.
Altruism is a spiritual act.
This core value is very important to me. It runs through me like the writing in a stick of rock. Every day I strive to be of service, to help others, to give back. It feels right for me.
How to be of service?
There are many ways to practice altruism and to be of service: from putting money in a charity box to the full on Mother Theresa.
Personally I look for the opportunity in each moment as I move through life. I step out of my ego and look at what I can give: from the kind word to a colleague in the office, to writing an inspirational blog post, to spending time with someone in need.
We all have so much to give, in so many different ways.
The key is to be open to the opportunities as they present themselves.
Altruism, for me, is also about doing these things without the expectation of something in return, and without shouting about it from the roof tops. It’s about humility. I do what I do, hence in this post there is no long list of my activities. It works better that way.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help
There is a fine line between being of use and help to others, and being an over-zealous “do-gooder”. In staying on the right side of this line I find it helpful to always put myself in the other person’s shoes. I help when asked or where needed without invading the other person’s space. I step back when I need to, and I understand that not everyone wants my help.
It’s about being respectful.
Which brings me neatly on to the flip-side of this core value: not being afraid to ask for help.
As much as I enjoy helping others there are times in life when I need help. When those situations arise I ask for it, period.
Asking for help is a really powerful tool.
By asking for and receiving help you fully understand the dynamic of how this all works. I am eternally grateful to all those who have helped me, and so I pay their help forwards by helping others.
The circle is complete.
Altruism is a core value for me. It involves all the things I love in the world: love, compassion, empathy. It fulfils mutual needs. It makes the world a better place. It empowers others.
Every morning I pray that I will leave all those that I come into contact with in a better place.
It’s a process but one that I am passionate about.
It is who I am.