Thursday, December 25, 2014

Good Deeds and Singing Your Own Praises

A Season of Needs

Most people pause during their holiday festivities to think of people less fortunate than themselves, which is natural. It is hard to be lucky without having at least a passing thought of those who don't have enough to eat or somewhere to sleep.

I also tend to cringe this time of year because this is when you get to see the type of person someone is. For example, celebrities will make their way to homeless shelters with photographers in tow to perform a couple of hours of good deeds. Some might choose to give a large sum of money and leak this information to a newspaper instead. Closer to home, you may notice that some friends on Facebook may post a status update about how they volunteered or donated to a cause or intend to do so "next year."

While I am glad that people are performing good deeds - God knows there aren't enough doing them- it irks me to hear about it. There can be a variety of reasons why one should advertise a good deed, and so there are varying degrees of how offensive this can be to me.

In my value system, there is an ideal to which I feel one should strive: selfless service to those less fortunate. Science has indicated that doing good deeds offers us many benefits. Many religions endorse performing good acts as part of a spiritual character (read: you'll get rewarded for being good). I guess what I'm saying is that a good deed done for some reason other than doing it is still a good deed. That said, this particular good deed is not capable of being classified as "selfless." You donate to charity because you get a tax write-off, making you feel good. Those two reasons right there exclude the good deed from the selfless classification. But you don't tell anyone that you donate to charity, so only you, the charity, your accountant, and the government know it happened. Then really, that's between you and God.

Instagram, social, media, news

You go on Facebook or Instagram and post about how you donated time and money to a charity. Maybe you even post a picture of you doing it. Then it becomes tacky, and what you're essentially saying to the world is that you need everyone to know you're a good person. Your example should inspire them. Whether you consciously intend it to be, this is the message you always send. There's no other reason that compels one to advertise their good deeds except to be praised.

That little voice telling you to sing your praises is your ego (i.e., yourself), and self has no place in a selfless good deed.

Whenever I see someone posting about some cause for which they're collecting money, I feel the same way. Or if they want someone to come to an event that they organized. For example, someone is collecting money for diabetes research. Next, he posts something about it on Facebook. Doesn't this expose the collector as a glory seeker?

"Hey, guys, I am collecting money to cure diabetes. Help me meet my goal of $500 by donating. Thanks!"

Seems pretty straightforward, right? My point gets muddied here because the ego is less obvious, but it's there. Three words give it away: "I am collecting." Someone announces they are collecting money for a good cause with those three words. Any proper person would do the same. Therefore any who follows their example is a good person too. 

You can achieve the same goal to raise money for a cause simply by saying, "donate money to help cure diabetes. Ask me how." You should know that fact and bask in that understanding.

See? Even though in that example, one is still referring to oneself, in this instance, it is purely to facilitate their friends' ability to donate to a more significant cause. There's no implied effort or work on the poster's behalf. Offering information is necessary to get the job done. Say "I am collecting" is redundant because you're collecting. Furthermore, it only serves to send the actual message, "I'm a good person."

Organizing a benefit for a particular reason can fall into a similar pitfall because one awkwardly needs to advertise about the cause to accomplish its goal. The kind patron lets people know what a fine person they are with only a few words. 

I'm aware that some might argue that I am overthinking this. Still, it boils down to the fact that ego is problematic, particularly in social relationships. 

In my past dealings with others, I have found that I don't want to spend an overabundance of time with someone who feels the need to let me know when they've performed good deeds. 

That's not to say they are incapable of being very friendly, or maybe their hearts are in the right place. It is certainly not to say I am better or morally superior or always selfless in my actions. It merely means that someone like that is on a different path and has different motivations and goals than myself. We typically end up not getting along or coming to a social impasse eventually.

In my experience, someone who makes a point to let others know when they've done something good for someone else usually ends up being "malignantly self-centered." More often than not, they are not likely to be reliable people and are the ones who won't be there for you when you need them. If they are, they'll keep a tab and be sure to let others know what they've done for you. I tend to be very cautious around someone singing their praises for those reasons alone.

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