Altruism versus selfishness

  • Michael Aun
    Michael Aun

Innately most people are altruistic. Sometimes selfishness gets in the way of us doing the right thing in the right way at the right time.  Every person must decide whether they will walk the walk when it comes to altruism.

Doing the right thing is never easy… even when it comes to doing the right thing at the right time in the right way.  If you choose altruism over selfishness it should make your life easier.  It is cold and lonely in the dark hole of selfishness.

My proudest legacy is my five beautiful grandchildren. The thing that makes me feel great pride is how altruistic they are to one another. Ditto for their parents. 

I have twin sons and twin grandsons (by my third son), making me something of an expert on twins, albeit by extension.  My three granddaughters could pass for triplets as they mirror one another in so many ways except for their age.  They inherently understand that giving to one another is a gift to one’s self.

Isabella Rossellinni once observed: “Before Darwin, our world was very religious. People saw altruism as something given by God for us to be good so that we could go to Paradise.”

I do not think for one second that my five little innocent grandchildren are looking for a backdoor into paradise. As a matter of fact, they are just good kids because they were raised by good parents. 

The late Dr. J. S. Liverman was the man who delivered me and most of my 10 brothers and sisters into this world.  One of his favorite expressions was, “If you plant peas, you get peas.” 

I think those five kids are the way they are because of excellent parenting.

Call it what you want but I think they are all “OK” kids because they woke one day and realized that they were all called to a life of service. They innately want to help others. It is in their genes, right down to baby Adelaide Olivia, who may turn out to be a great doctor like her mom one day.  If you plant peas… just saying.

While religion gets a lot of the credit for the altruistic gifts for many, I can safely say that genes are more powerful influence on these children. They will never sacrifice too much because they will then have nothing left to give to others. 

They replenish the reservoir. As they give, they receive.  They innately choose to be a fountain to others and not a drain. The things these young children cannot possibly know from their limited exposure to religion or values.

In fact, there is a lot of evidence in evolutionary science that shows that altruism and acting in ways that are empathetic to others is beneficial for generations to come.

My sons and their wonderful wives are raising some terrific offspring and I do not doubt for a moment that they deserve 100 percent of the credit for the altruistic ways of those children.

On the other side of the coin, there are critics like Andrew Ryan who say, “Altruism is the root of all Wickedness.” 

That’s a hard-sell for me because when someone shows kindness to others, I see it more as a gift and not a black mark. I see it as empathy and not a replacement for where the mortgage payment stands in the order of the importance.

Call it “genuine altruism” because it combines both the head and the heart.


Michael Aun, is co-author of “Build a Better You, Starting Now!” Volume Five.