Kindness. Jesus. Altruism…. On Not being Selfish

I don’t like it, but I believe in equity and conflict theory, which are essentially the same thing, but that’s a different post. I believe every interaction with another person is motivated by the desire to get something out of the situation; every interaction is an exchange of goods. This belief has lead me to push away invitations, dates, as well as looking very skeptically at friendly gestures. Not an enjoyable way to live.

Taken to a more long term scale, a relationship depend on whether each party perceives their benefits to be at least qual to or more desirably greater than what they put in. The term “exchange of goods” might bring to mind physical goods like money or food. Or, if you have a more perverse mind like mine, you may think about a very physical exchange: sex. That is something that throws me into a foaming at the mouth, stinging at the eyes, puddle of a headache, which I’ve written about here.

In my eyes it goes something like this…

Friendship- I’ll listen to you if you’ll listen to me

Relationship- I’ll give you sex and listen to you if you’ll give me sex and listen to me OR I’ll listen to you if you give me sex

Fuck buddy- I’ll give you sex if you give me sex

This bothers me. It bothers me because we don’t often talk about it. We move through these social niceties and politeness. It would be crass to talk plainly about what each party wants. By not talking about it though, it creates a situation where everyone is a businessman for him or her self. Everyone is trying to close the best deal for themselves or cheat on their taxes to get more.

Although addressing this directly does help, I’m still distraught by this perceived situation of the world. More than other people trying to get something out of me, I’m disturbed by the way I can trace my own actions back to their motivation. I’ve been searching for a few months now to find what I’ve termed “true caring” or “true kindness”- actions that are motivated for solely selfless reasons – but I have yet to find any.

It can always be argued that the acting individual gained some social reward of praise or positive regard. It’s so engrained in us that we must be accepted in the group for survival that simply being accepted can be explanation for almost any action. This creates a post hoc loop that allows for the argument to be applied to every situation. If it is always true, the statement becomes somewhat null. Either my definitions need to change or I need to find a falsifying situation.

Death seems to eliminate most rewards. If someone died for something or someone, would they be acting solving out of selfless motivation? Even then, they may have been compelled to act in that way by social forces making them believe it was the correct thing to do. The idea that their name would live on and therefore they may continue to live in some way also means that they might still have sense of social acceptance.

Jesus. Jesus, this sounds like the story of Jesus. But that’s not the answer, I don’t believe. The answer to resolving this abhorrent situation is in myself. I need to find what true kindness is; what selflessness is. Or, find a way to accept that this is the way the world is. I keep asking myself “Is it that bad?” Maybe that’s just justification for my own selfish acts. And then the larger question “Why is it good to be selfless?”

 

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