by Matt Gregory
Altruism – What is it and How do you Practice it?
There are very few actual altruistic acts in the world. Even those that may appear to be altruistic often come with an underlying benefit to the person or party performing such an act.
Altruism is an act of kindness that benefits only those on the receiving end, in no way benefiting the giving party in any way shape or form. That means no financial rewards, no expectation of reciprocation and not publicising the act themselves as this can be seen as boasting in order to improve their own reputation and how they are perceived by others.
When an Altruistic Act May not be as it Seems
Before we continue, let us be clear – simply because an act is not 100% altruistic does not mean that it is not thoughtful and is not an act of good. People can perform an act for good that benefits either a single person, or a wider group, and themselves benefit in some way shape or form.
The best example of when an apparent altruistic act isn’t altruistic at all is when either a celebrity or business perform an act of charity as part of a PR campaign. While they are, in fact, helping others and, in twine, raising awareness for an issue, there is a separate goal that caters to that celebrity of business’ perception in the public domain. They are wanting to be seen to be doing good in the community – this is not true altruism, although it is still a thoughtful act of kindness.
What is an Altruistic Act?
If an act is truly altruistic, you probably wouldn’t have heard about it unless those on the receiving end have broadcast it. An act of true kindness if performed with the sole intention of benefiting someone else without being broadcast and/or utilised in any way to benefit the giving party is altruistic.
Charity is often the central point for an altruistic act, with donors giving money – either on a one-off or regular basis – for a cause close to their heart. In Islam, such a donation is known as Sadaqah – where Muslims perform the act of giving or helping for good. You can find more information here on this religious practice.
Are There Enough Truly Altruistic Acts Performed Today?
Because of the point already raised earlier on in this article, it is hard to know how altruistic modern society truly is because you likely won’t hear about an act of altruism. With that being said, millions of people around the world continue to live in poverty, unable to provide for their families, children being sent to work instead of gaining an education and homeless sleeping rough on the streets.
On that basis, you would have to say that not enough acts are being performed as there are more than enough resources to ensure that not a single person has to starve, sleep rough or be denied access to education. While many are undoubtedly performed every day, there is certainly room for more…there always is.
How to Perform an Act of Altruism
You can perform an act of altruism by simply helping someone sleeping rough on the street by giving them a sandwich, something to drink, a blanket or a change of clothes without the need for posting about it across your social media profiles. There are also thousands of charities that would be highly grateful to receive whatever you can afford to give.
Equally, an act of altruism doesn’t have to benefit a stranger as you can also do something for a friend and/or relative that may be struggling. Simply taking the time to have a conversation with someone when no one else is there can be considered an act of altruism.