Why Do We Help? This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

April 4, 2010
By , darien, IL
Is it innate or influenced? Is it obligatory or volitional? Motivated by compunction or a selfless desire to succor? Why do we help the weak?

Indebtedness. In our lives, there exist many people whom we consciously bond ourselves to: those who have rendered us services, those whom we emulate, and those who have displayed toward us unconditional love. Helping them in times of desperation is merely an act of remuneration for their contributions to our lives. We are indebted to those who have rendered us services and have or have not demanded any sort of payment out of gratitude or guilt. The beings that we emulate or admire have filled an inner hole of that which we crave, rendering it impossible for us to exist in a world in which their existences are unhappy. At last, we are at the mercy of those who have given us emotional support and unconditional love because we, as a result, develop an emotional attachment toward those beings and cannot bear to live with their unhappiness. When observing the motivations of “kind and unselfish acts”, we find that the majority of them are motivated by a debt to others.

Learned Behavior. From birth, we are ingrained with a belief that the greatest virtues of man were his sympathy and magnanimousness. The worth of our lives was said to be determined by our contributions to society; thus, we were reprimanded for exhibiting selfish and cavalier behaviors. As a result, we, as children, learned to disregard our whims, desires, and necessities while fulfilling the whims, desires, and necessities of others “less fortunate”. Motivated by our respect for authority or our adherence to “principles”, we retain the same views while growing into adults and pass them to the next generation.

Fear. We have all heard the statement ‘Picture yourself in others’ shoes’. We pictured ourselves in the shoes of the unfortunate. We pictured ourselves in the bodies of the unfortunate. We pictured ourselves in the minds of the unfortunate. Then, we developed a fear of becoming unfortunate, which compelled us to aid the unfortunate. When we see a helpless beggar sitting under a highway, we unhesitatingly produce a few dollars, putting ourselves in his shoes while disregarding the events in our own lives. A hope develops after donating or succoring, a hope that in our desperation, someone would help us. Yet when we come across misfortune, some of us are aided while some of us are not.

The aforementioned reasons only apply to the rational mind, the mind subject to emotions and morality. The unscrupulous are never in debt. They live by exploitation. The rational, however, do not exploit or live unselfish lives. Rational persons tend to their needs while being aware of others’.

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