I believe with all my heart that most people are mostly good, when it comes down to it.
Whilst many of our actions can be interpreted as self-serving (and indeed, some of them will be), I have confidence that humans on the whole are a caring sort of bunch, who frequently act on their altruistic natures to make the world a better place.
Of course there will be exceptions to the rule whose actions are so heinous they eclipse many of the missed moments of small good things done by normal people, everyday. We’re good at focusing on those; whether it’s whatever outrageous saying has dropped lately from the lips of Donald Trump, or the appalling unkindness of the Olympic crowd who booed silver medallist Renaud Lavillenie, or whichever kind of small-town awful gets splashed across the headlines of the world for enough seconds for us to draw in our breath and shake our heads with disgust.
We share memes, opinions, articles, fold our arms, stake our ground, and pin our colours to the mast of disapproval, and when everyone’s looking down their noses and ‘tsk tsk’ing about whichever badness has just happened, it’s easy to forget the good things.
Bet you I can think of at least ten, RightNow, off the top of my head – examples of small good, world-embettering things I’m thankful for:
A friend who raises guide-dog puppies prior to the beginning of their training * A colleague who took my afternoon in clinic so I could rest my poorly mouth from talking to patients * My family pulling together every time one of us needs something helped with or sorted * A friend who often goes to Sri Lanka to see her family, and takes lots of no-longer-needed things for them to distribute and enjoy * People who share pictures and words intended to uplift those who encounter them * The care-home my Grandad’s been moved into, being one with nice staff and no bad smells, where people seem happy * Parents (and grandparents) giving up time to give their kids wonderful summer experiences * Words written with love to specific people, to people at large, to anyone who needs them * Letters written and glitterbombs and parcels sent between friends, carrying love across the miles * Small, safe spaces, with dear friends, where we can both whine and whinge and put each other back together after a hard day * Anyone who adopts another being and cherishes and nurtures them * Witnessing people cheering each other on in their successes, and in their lacks thereof * Good causes being promoted and funds raised to help both individuals and organisations…
In each of these situations, compassion seems so key to the good thing happening at all. In each of these situations, I think it could easily be argued back to the underlying point that they exist because people CARE.
Maybe people get something back, though – maybe a trade of kindnesses shouldn’t really count. Maybe the parents and grandparents get their reward in spending time in the delightful company of youngsters (who am I trying to kid?!). Maybe the puppy trainer just has a wonderful time looking after cute doggies (no, I reckon that’s hard work, too). Maybe venting and bitching and acknowledging one another’s griefs and frustrations doesn’t really count as ’embettering’, but the trust and security and encouragement and building-up that’s part of it…oh maybe it does? Maybe the adopting fills a hole in the life and the heart and…nope, it’s just good.
Maybe so often, the good things which we make happen every day – even if we seem to be beneficiaries in the act – are still a result of care and compassion.
As to the other good things people do – the giving away of items to enable others to have them, or the fund-raising on behalf of good causes – perhaps they’re self-seeking and glory-hunting, advertising that they’re jumping on the bandwagon of Being A Good Person, with an implicit ‘Shouldn’t You Try To Be, Too?’ but I just don’t buy it.
Yes, sometimes we act in misguided fashions, or to alleviate some kind of guilt or hurt of our own. Sometimes our giving is tainted by the desire to unburden, rather than to really help someone (and that we can do both is a delightful side-effect of the underlying reason). Sometimes our participation truly is just token, to make ourselves feel better, or for show.
It’s all a tangle and a bit of an impenetrable mixture, with the each element inseparable from the others, as so many aspects depend on things that vary, BUT here’s the thing, we’re still doing it. And it’s still making a difference, whatever it is. Whatever the intent or attitude behind the gift, it’s still given. Whatever the justification for helping, help has still been done. And no-one ever said giving/participation/helping *has* to be sacrificial. Sometimes it can be incidental, accidental, tangential or oblique, stemming from something else entirely. It’s still something which does good. Still something which most of the time comes mostly from a point of care, of compassion.
I rather think if we were all selfish bastards at heart, lacking compassion and inherently geared to be mean and cruel, our society truly would be fractured beyond repair. That it isn’t, and through the ages hasn’t been in spite of what seems the best (or, worst) efforts of a number of highly influential selfish, uncompassionate bastards, seems to me to speak volumes to the huge, underlying impact of those who live in ways which do good for others, as well as for themselves.
On the whole, we humans, we people, we the Village; us, you, me…are beings who intrinsically, incessantly, instinctively pay heed to the quandries and needs of others, feel pangs of empathy within us, and the accompanying desire to somehow improve things. I believe we’re innately compassionate, and whilst we can choose to ignore the tugs on the heartstrings, or the chance to make a difference, or the opportunity to simply express that we are human too, and recognise that ‘there but for the grace of God go I’ (or similar), and pitch in to help…observation and research suggest that on the whole, we don’t choose to ignore, to overlook, and to keep others quashed.
I’d say most of us, most of the time, are pretty good at feeling and expressing compassion. We build the Village. We look after one another. We stand up for goodness and justice and mercy. And if that doesn’t give hope in hard times, and inspire thankfulness that each of us, in our small ways, can make a big difference, I don’t know what will!
GO TEAM VILLAGE!
What do YOU think? Are we inherently compassionate? Do you think we can ever be purely altruistic? Does it matter as long as people get help when they need it? Share your thoughts…
This month, 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion continues to work toward a better world with a focus on Inherent Compassion.
Write a relevant post and add it to the link-up right here by clicking the blue button below.
Here’s how to get involved:
Join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion on Facebook
Visit the 1000Speak blog
Follow @1000Speak on Twitter
Use the #1000Speak hashtag across social media.