One of the highest gifts of the human being is his ability to get out of himself and turn to others. The art of helping, altruism. That behavior that moves by the moral effort that it implies, has become a scarce good in these times where materialism and selfishness have an important role.
However, who has not ever experienced that comforting energy that is felt when our support lightens the burdens of another person? Recently, science has discovered the neurological basis for this pleasant experience. When we help someone selflessly, a part of the brain that is linked to the feeling of pleasure is activated . But is this offer always disinterested?
Not all that glitters is gold
Altruism is a desirable behavior from every point of view. Biologically speaking, cooperation between individuals guarantees the preservation of the species. From a psychological perspective, providing and receiving support relieves stress, strengthens self-esteem and emotional ties, while fostering self-improvement. Even our spirituality is enriched with altruism, since it edifies us and connects us with the transcendent.
In light of these findings, it appears that helping others is highly desirable and beneficial behavior. But given the complexity that characterizes us as human beings, the answer is not so simple.
The motivations that guide this helpful behavior can be very diverse, and it is precisely those that make the difference. On one side is genuine compassion. That which arises when we see that someone is overwhelmed by burdens and that leads us to offer our selfless help, desiring only the good of the other. In this case there is no hidden interest behind our actions, but this is not always the case.
Sometimes, surprisingly, people offer their help to feed their ego, eager to receive admiration and social recognition. At other times it is the benefit we get in exchange for helping that leads us to do so, be it a promotion in our career or the feeling of superiority to which we are addicted. It may even happen that we help others because we do not trust their ability to solve problems on their own.
Assisting others can become a way to control our fellow humans, either consciously or unconsciously. Well, in doing so, we make them dependent on the support they receive and, therefore, on us. Likewise, false altruism can be coldly calculated to deceive and manipulate others, in the form of a trap or ambush.
Do not help so much, that you hinder
Interestingly, sometimes help that is offered with good intentions has just the opposite effect. And instead of making life easier for the other, what is achieved is to interfere with their natural course. Thus, on occasions, our help can impede the development of the initiative and the autonomy of the other person.
This is the case of overprotective parents who, with the intention of avoiding problems and suffering for their children, do for them what they could do for themselves. However, a time will inevitably come when they will have to face life’s challenges alone. And they will do it without being prepared for it because, ironically, they received too much help.
The art of helping
As we can see, helping is a true art. To do this, we must know how to choose the moment and the forms. We must be able to foresee the consequences that our interference will have for the other. We must even ask ourselves what is our true motivation to help.
What do I really hope to get out of this? Do I seek admiration, control, feel important? Am I benefiting the other person with my behavior or am I depriving him of developing his own abilities? Does a genuine feeling move me to facilitate the life of my fellow man?
Altruism is a wonderful value that, in its pure state, can make the world a better place. However, inadequate motivation or a poorly chosen moment can make this a mistake. Let us not allow our own shortcomings and needs to overshadow the original beauty of such a noble gesture. Let’s learn to handle the beautiful art of helping others.
Prosocial behavior: what it is and how it develops
Prosocial behavior includes acts of solidarity, altruism, cooperation, or helping others. It begins to grow in childhood and continues throughout life.