The definition of altruism is the “willingness to do things that bring advantages to others, even if it results in disadvantage for yourself” (Cambridge dictionary). Although not new to human behaviour I felt that there was an increasing number of altruistic responses from people during the lockdown period. But is this now becoming less?
Altruism can often be spontaneous and acted upon without much forethought or decision only to recognise the benefits for that other person. It’s the act of someone unselfishly giving of their time/money/skill without expecting anything back in return. The emphasis is on the person receiving rather than the giver. Random acts of kindness are examples of altruism and is seen by social psychologists as prosocial behaviour.
In a blog written last year on Acts of Kindness I wrote that the acts can range from small and unassuming to grand gestures without the need for recognition or praise. So anything goes that is spontaneous, unprepared and done to help someone else. It can be giving someone the rest of your time on a parking ticket, leaving a book for someone else to read, let another person go ahead of you in a queue, hold a door open or pay someone a compliment. It stops us being self-centred and inwardly focused and allows us to be more aware of the other person.
Back in lockdown April and May there was a lot of kindness and altruistic behaviour, people wanted to help and support others. We shopped for our elderly neighbours, phoned those who were shielding and Captain Sir Tom was walking unselfishly to raise money for the NHS.
Do you feel that people are still being compassionate, considerate and altruistic? Possibly as lockdown has eased, people are back at work, the pace of life picks up and the stresses of daily life start to take hold again, altruism is less seen. Just on the contentious issue of wearing a face mask – the act of wearing one is predominately for others, an act of altruism!
So let’s not forget how communities came together, how we helped and supported each other, those unselfish acts are just as much needed today as there were months ago. Maybe they are needed more so now, as we come to terms with a new way of living. Looking out for others is not just a virus led requirement but hopefully an innate desire to help others feel better or to bring a bit of joy or comfort into someone’s life – a selfless act that can mean a lot to the receiver even you don’t know tht person!
Life maybe be busier and faster once again but we are still human beings requesting understanding, consideration and kindness so let’s not forget our ability and choice of being altruistic.