Let’s face it. We’re all only human. There are only two reasons we voluntarily do anything: hope of pleasure and fear of pain. However, it is what we find most pleasurable or painful which defines as individuals.
We call people altruistic who sacrifice of themselves to help others. But what really motivates them? If helping others made them feel guilty and full of self-hatred, would they still do it? Or if ignoring others’ plight gave them a divine sense of inner peace would they be so quick to lend a hand? I don’t think so. In the end, it is really all about how our actions make us feel.
We are all basically selfish creatures. The only difference between a selfish and “unselfish” act is whether or not others are intentionally helped (or hurt) in the process. Do we wish to please only ourselves or are we gaining our pleasure vicariously through helping others? Are we serving our baser selves or our higher selves?
I believe that Jesus Christ was probably the most selfless person who ever walked the Earth, yet even He thought of Himself. If He were completely selfless, would He have begged God to “let this cup pass from me” in the Gardens of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:39)? Of course not. He didn’t want to go through with the crucifixion but He knew the spiritual pain of failing to follow through with God’s plan would be far worse for Him than any physical pain He might endure on the cross. Jesus also loved His fellow man and undoubtedly expected that their salvation would bring a supreme joy to His heart. So it seems that fear of pain and hope of pleasure are what motivated even the most “selfless” act in history.
If you have ever come to the realization that you are helping others primarily because it makes you feel good or to avoid the feeling of guilt, you needn’t be ashamed. You are in good company.