Can helping be truly selfless? It’s been a common argument for a while now—whether or not self-interest is involved in altruism. And while I’m sure our own needs can play a part in whether we help or not, there is one technique that researchers suggest for truly selfless giving. According to a study by Batson, Turk, Shaw, and Klein in 1995, when we show empathetic concern, or “feelings of warmth, tenderness, and compassion toward the other,” we often feel more compelled to offer assistance.
It’s based on the concept of “we-ness.” When we sense a similarity between us and the people we are helping, we can relate more to their needs and circumstances. And because the evolutionary theory suggests that we want to protect our genes, it would make sense then that we would want to help those that we feel more related to.
Let’s try to step in someone else’s shoes for the day. What would it feel like to wear worn out shoes from sitting on the street corner? What would it feel like to wear a cast or be immobilized in a wheelchair, despite what shoes you’re wearing? What if you have no shoes at all—because you lost your legs in a car accident? All of these things could happen; in a way, it happens when we imagine it. For some people, their “shoes” are a daily reminder of their reality.
May we offer to help people, no matter shoes “we’re” wearing. We’ve all been given different abilities and talents in our unique lives, but helping is a skill that everyone has. Let’s make good use of it.