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Does Selflessness Exist?

Can a person do a purely selfless act? Or is there always some selfish underlying motive to make the person feel good about their self?

Is any act purely selfless? When you do something for the benefit of others, are you not also doing it because it makes you feel good to know you have helped someone?

Perhaps it is not all bad. If I was in need of assistance, and a stranger gladly helped me, and then had this obvious aura of pride surrounding them, I suppose I would just be glad they assisted me. But perhaps I would question who they were helping, as well. Are they concerned for my well-being? Or are they using my unfortunate state as a way to pride their self in being a good person? I know there are some people who are in desperate need of assistance and could care less what reason someone has for helping them. But there must also be people out there who recognize that this selfless act of charity from another is just a way for this person to take advantage of the one in need’s situation in order to pride their self.

There is a man who lives in my town who travels around town on a walker. People often give him rides to Walmart, the park, or wherever, as he has proven himself to be a harmless old disabled guy who would not hurt a fly, but simply has no real means of transportation. Recently, I saw a woman I have known for years helping him exit her car in the front of Walmart. She was parked by the door, flashers on, helped him out, had this huge cheery smile on her face, gave him five dollars, and repeatedly told him how glad she was to help him, and if he needed anything, to not hesitate to call her. She was also speaking louder than necessary when she noticed others nearby. I could barely watch. I kept thinking “Surely she knows how ridiculous she is acting. She gave a man in need a ride, and is not experiencing some euphoric rush from her good deed.”

Later that day on facebook, the good Samaritan had posted the tale of her good deed. “Today I gave an old man a ride to Walmart. He was so helpless and frail, and I saw the appreciation in his eyes when he went inside, holding nothing but the $5 I gave him, leaning over his rusty walker. It felt so good for me to help someone who had so little. Sure, people looked at me strangely, but I did not care. I did the right thing.” Of course, all of her “friends” commented on what a good person she was, and how she would be rewarded, and how amazing and inspirational she was. But I have to wonder: would the old man appreciate her act of kindness less if he knew that she exploited him and turned what he may have believed to be an act of selfless assistance into a way for her to show the world how great of a person she was?

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  1. I forget where I read or heard it but the speaker made a valid point. There is no true selflessness. All selfless acts are to help ease the conscience of the person acting. The example they used was of an interviewer in a carriage with Abraham Lincoln who witnessed Lincoln stop the carriage to assist someone in need and upon his return said that he had to stop because the thought of that person suffering would have weighed on his mind for the rest of the day.

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