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The word altruism describes an act of devotion to humanity (Harbaugh et al 2007). It is used to refer to acts that go beyond an individual, to serving the rest of the community without due compensation for it. There is also a lot of sacrifice and devotion required in the process. Philosophy tends to question whether all acts performed while helping others is a true reflection of altruism (Brunier et al, 2002). While one may relate most self-sacrificing acts to it, some of the motives are found selfish. There is a tendency to want to reach a gainful end, and the means to the end result is through helping others. For example, one may want to gain a certain reputation in the society. The way to it sometimes is through coming out as a person who is ready to help the society. In this way, they are able to gain a good reputation and consequently gain their expected end.
The other question raised is whether by helping others, a person is able to gain some sort of joy and satisfaction (Brunier et al., 2002). It is evident that some people love the act of helping others. Indeed, they enjoy reaching out to people and helping them. Several other motives may be the drive for altruism. For example, one may not be ready to engage in such activities unless they are assured of economic gain from the activity. The drive for them is that in the long run, their economic well-being should improve (Schwartz and Sendor, 1999). It may in the early stages appear to be altruism but in the end turns out to be a selfish motivation.
The idea of altruism may be hard to separate from gain (Harbaugh et al., 2007). The drive sometimes, as indicated earlier, may not be noted from the beginning. As a matter of fact, most of these motives may never be established. Selfish motivation and altruism also tend to be intertwined. If for example, one is motivated to receive help and at the end of the day get stress levels lowered, the two elements are evident. The person did not only do this act to benefit, but also to help others. To this end, it is hard to cut a definite line between selfish motivation and altruism.
Many heroic acts are related to altruism (Koenig et al., 2007). The heroes of the world are known to have gone beyond their personal needs to fulfill the needs of others. The legendaries recognized areas that they could help at and went beyond their means to give them what the community failed to. As a result, the community crowned them to be heroes in the years that followed. Altruism therefore is beneficial to the community at large. People find it hard to say, “This and that is my hero”, unless they see signs of altruism in an individual.
Regardless of the motives behind helping others, it has been known that one reaps benefits out of it (Harbaugh et al., 2007). Many people may be concerned that the other people’s burdens are overwhelming, even to the points of raising stress levels. Valid as it may seem, research has shown that many people have benefited from the acts of altruism. Actually, change of mindset is called for, and motivation checked to achieve full benefits of altruism. The lives of people may improve greatly, if everybody would be ready to offer a helping hand to the people around them. In this regard studies have been done to come up with the positive effects of altruism. Many surveys are collected to come up with the benefits of altruism, both to an individual and to the society as a whole.
Effects of Altruism
Research has shown that altruism is beneficial for the well being of our emotions (Schwartz and Sendor, 1999). The studies have shown that most patients going through dialysis and transplants are likely to have more emotional stability as they engage in activities of altruism. The studies report that most of them experience peace of mind and personal growth as they help others in similar situations (Leventhal, 2009). The patients who have been found to offer a helping hand to their peers are seen to be confident and to have high self esteem. They are sure that they will heal amidst of their troubling times. The end result is that they heal more quickly, not only physically but also emotionally. Their lives are able to take a different turn for the better. In this case, altruism is directly related to emotional well being and stability.
The people who have been found to experience chronic diseases are known to reduce the chances of recognition of serious pain while they involve in altruism. The surveys have indicated that less focus is likely to be given to pain as people concentrate more on others. Examples have been given of patients, who are known to focus less on their pain through consideration of other patients facing more painful diseases. This eventually quickens their healing process. Many people are concerned about how well they can release their stress levels (Schwartz and Sendor, 1999). Our bodies release several hormones in response to long periods of stress in their lives. These hormones include cortisol, which increases the chances for heart problems and related ailments. The hormones consequently lead to a fight- fight situation as the body responds to the unrest. Still, the body defense mechanism is largely affected, increasing the chances of early death of an individual.
Management of stress calls for one to focus on something totally different from what they are going through (Brunier et al., 2002). Sometimes exercises are recommended, or maybe watching an interesting film. But, better still, one must consider helping others. The researches done indicate that stress levels are likely to go down following altruism. The best thing with such an act is that a person is able to gain help while at the same time help another person. The proposed ways of relieving stress may not be as directly related to improving other people’s lives as altruism is.
The very act of altruism, as watched by an observer is likely to reduce the stress levels in an individual, even in case they are not directly involved in performing it. In a certain study, several children were asked to watch a film involving mother Teresa, as she performed her altruism acts in Calcutta (Harbaugh et al 2007). The children were then examined to indicate how their stress levels had changed. The findings were amazing. The antibodies known to offer protective mechanisms for their bodies were seen to increase. Their immunity was also boosted. Compared to other children who never watched the film, their stress levels were lowered. Those who did not watch it had no changes in their antibodies levels. Altruism therefore, is of great relief as far as stress levels are concerned.
Helping others brings about good feelings to an individuals life (Brunier et al., 2002). Studies have shown that as people listen to others and help them, several good feelings are experienced. They feel warm and have high levels of increased energy. The best thing is that the feelings are measurable. The people used in the surveys all agree to the fact that the intense moments of such like feelings would recur as they remembered the very act. In New Zealand, a study was carried out to indicate how altruist activities were related to the good feelings (Schwartz and Sendor, 1999). Around 115 adults, earning a meager income were asked to give the mood they experienced as they helped. The prediction was that they felt good at the end of the activities.
In our modern day society, many people are perceived to be selfish. They are busy in their own lives and are not willing to help. As a result, they express feelings of anger and frustration. The easier way out is to act in altruistic manner. The society has been found to lack the feel good notions and they need that as a matter of priority. It is very possible that when people receive help, they end up taking back the favor to the person who helped them in the first place (Andrews et al., 2003). One common saying has been found true; that you will always reap what you have planted. Sometimes the favor may not necessarily come from the people that helped them, but rather form other individuals in the society. The acts of altruism will always give a good reputation to the people who offer a helping hand to the society. This kind of reputation goes a long way in enabling them attract favor form the community. Altruism is therefore beneficial as far as social support is concerned.
Friendships develop and grow as a result of altruism (Andrews et al., 2003). The society greatly needs good and long lasting friendships. They indicate that people have been healed from the inside, and that they are ready to give more to the society as a result of this feeling. Strong friendships go along the way in helping the society to connect at all social levels. On the other hand, isolation only makes the society unbearable. In a situation where everybody is doing what they please without having to create friendships, it is likely that this society is chaotic. The isolated individuals may actually experience low immune system and increased chances of early death. Therefore, altruism heals any given society.
The act of gratitude is an emotion that will always bring in a similar act in the future (Schwartz and Sendor, 1999). When people say, “thank you”, it is likely that some kind of act was performed. The person who receives such words will always feel appreciated. They are more likely to do this act repeatedly. Therefore, altruism is something that enables the society to achieve goals and objectives. We want to be appreciated while at the same time give others help. The feelings of insignificance are likely to be gone away when we are grateful. Some people grew up in a particular environment and may never receive kind words. They may struggle with lack of social recognition unless they are appreciated. In this regard, most people will engage in altruism to achieve social recognition and appreciation.
To ensure that we survive, people must be ready to care for and help others (Leventhal, 2009). The social support we receive from others creates such a strong bond. This eliminates chances of conflict and strife, which would otherwise evolve if there was no altruism at all. The conflict may mean lack of the life’s basics, sometimes death in the extreme end. Even the very evolutionary science agrees to the fact that human beings have evolved to desire to care and help others. The prior findings, suggesting “survival for the fittest” for the human beings left chance for evolution. Today, we experience better lives as a result of altruism. This is the only chance left for the survival of the human beings.
A research involving 423 couples, elderly, stretching for a period of five years indicated that those who were not ready to offer help were likely to die earlier compared to the couples involved in altruistic activities (Schwartz and Sendor, 1999). Unbelievable as it may sound, those who received help did not have longevity in their lives. The receivers would actually die earlier than their altruistic friends. In Michigan, similar studies also agreed on the findings in New Zealand. Out of the 2700 residents surveyed, those who were directly involved in altruism were found to live longer than the residents who did not engage in such activities. To help and care for others meant longer lives than they would have otherwise experienced.
Altruism makes people get to achieve the correct perspective of what life really is about (Leventhal, 2009). We tend to overly complain about our situations. Yet, our life situations are different and we live in the different world. Comparing our situations with others makes us understand that our situations are better off, and we have reasons to be thankful. For example, visiting the third world countries will enable any person from the developed world to see life in a different light. Lack of the basics of live that characterize some parts of the world would change the way we view life in its totality (Leventhal, 2009). Focus does change at the end of the day and one is able to take seriously the kind of occupation that one is involved in. it is also likely that the individual is likely to view some of the situations causing stress more positively.
Some of the wrong attitudes may be dealt away through altruism (Baumeister and Bushman, 2008). Some people have been known to be overly hostile. Their life is full of such a chronic and hostile attitude to the extent that they have their very lives endangered. By advising them to help others, despite their circumstances, they have been found to change their attitude. This improves their overall well being. Altruism supports the saying by Ghandhi that one should be ready to be the change they want to see in the world (Bartlett and DeSteno, 2006). The community is likely to emulate good deeds that have once been done to them. For example, young children observe what the adults do and emulate the same. This means that if they will see a person engaging in altruism, they will also emulate this. It is therefore possible that the community will change for the better. The goals of the community that may have had to involve more than one individual are likely to be achieved with ease through altruism. More so, many people are likely to imitate good deeds than the wrong. In the end, the community grows in every life perspective (Dunn and Schweitzer, 2005).
Growing up in an environment where children are cared for is known to enable them develop characteristics of altruism (Bartlett and DeSteno, 2006). A study done recently shows tendencies of children growing in a caring environment of altruism to become as good as their environments were. A group of orphans were studied. One group was brought up in a stable home, provided with all the care that they needed. The other group was neglected for the first several months of their life before they were finally adopted into caring homes. The level of oxytocin, the brain chemical involved in bonding capacity of a human being, in their urine was then examined. This was meant to establish the capacity to bond by the children. The group that had been neglected prior to adoption was known to have lowered levels of oxytocin in their urine. The children from homes that nurtured them with care since their day of birth had higher levels of the hormone (McLennan, 2008). This clearly indicated that the altruistic environment enables people to reach out and care for other people in their lives (Dunn and Schweitzer, 2005). The kind of person that we are, whether we are kind, empathic or not may be a result of the kind of environment we were exposed to as we grew up. The values in the society today indicate how well we were able to pass on the altruistic acts. The chances of bringing forth healthy and cohesive society are directly linked to our ability to pass the values to the children as they grow up. In this regard, it is vital that altruism prevails and that we should make deliberate choices to nurture it.
Spiritual health is of great benefit to any individual (Leventhal, 2009). It is a clear indicator that one is healthy in their entire life in every aspect. Spiritual health enables people to achieve many goals and objectives, while at the same time helping the society. Altruism and spiritual health are directly related. While altruism can do without spiritual health, it is impossible for spiritualism to do without altruism. It is important that one is able to shift their focus from oneself and reach out to others. The findings indicate that doing this enables a person to lead an open life and also to be closely knit with the members of the society.
Religion gives way for dialogue, growth and achievements in the society (Dunn and Schweitzer, 2005). To assume that we can achieve such goals without altruism is wrong. The way out is to reach out and love others. By saying that we are spiritually healthy, we give others a certain expectation. We only tell them that we are ready to help them, and that the society will be different from then on. Issues of inequalities are therefore solved and we see freedom set within the society (Brunier et al., 2002).
All the same, studies agree to the fact that altruism must be not pushed to the extremes so that we are able to reap all the benefits we wish to (McLennan, 2008). For example, if one helps beyond their financial capabilities, they are likely to face negative outcomes. They may for example face mental breakdown and have their stress levels raised. In this case, altruism does not bring in anything beneficial to the individual. Another aspect is when someone dos not seem to have power to make their personal decisions. They will do whatever other people wish for them to do. They may not be happy after the act, and may have well considered not engaging in at the first place.
We therefore must consider ourselves first, asking ourselves where the act leaves us. The acts of altruism must also be sure to benefit the society (Koenig et al., 2007). Several acts may not be beneficial as we ought, but rather destructive and oppressive to the society. Whereas our motives may be right, the society may not benefit in the way we assumed that it would.
Therefore, it is very important to check our motives and to avoid the chances of taking these acts to the extremes (Andrews et al., 2003). The benefits of altruism are many and only achieved after careful evaluations of the circumstances that we hope to engage in. We must be ready to move with caution and ensure that we receive the full reward of altruism.
Altruism is of great benefit to the individuals that perform it and the society as a whole. Many studies indicate an overall health of the individual and cohesion within the society. The findings indicate that biologically, the well being of an individual is reflected by the hormones that are released from time to time. When we act in a certain way, some hormones are released; ensuring that we are left at a certain level as far as health is concerned.
Some of the ailments have been seen to heal with ease as people reach out and help others. The stress levels also reduce, while at the same evading the chances of ever occurring in an individual’s life. The society is also seen to benefit, as the chances of bonding and friendships within it increase. While we may not be ready to go beyond ourselves and help, the findings indicate innumerable benefits to individuals. They agree that the people who dare to improve other people’s lives end up improving their own in every aspect. According to the findings, there is an aspect of the need to ensure that we are cautious while engaging in such acts. Good as it may sound; altruism may bring in negative consequences. We must ensure that both the individual performing it and the receiver are left at a better place than they were before they performed the act.
The change we need actually lies in our hands. The society today cries out for change. The world is in desperate need of equality and elimination of social ills. The remedy is in our hands. It is in helping that many families are healed and the society grows as it ought to. We must make deliberate decisions to help. Altruism is what we actually need to obtain healing in ourselves and the society at large. The mourning society may never receive their help unless we are ready to act and help them. We agree that we want a better society. Cohesion is achievable if only we go beyond ourselves. Sometimes, the very small deeds will go a long way in improving our own lives and the society as a whole. There is therefore much communication that is needed for the culture of altruism to be engraved in our hearts and minds so that it may be possible to make a better society.