Social Question

NaturallyMe's avatar

Do you believe that everything you do, you do because you have something to gain from it?

Asked by NaturallyMe (4902 points ) July 10th, 2010

I do. I can’t think of any exceptions. If you’ve got one, enlighten me! :)

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66 Answers

Seaofclouds's avatar

No. I help people because I want to see other people do well. I gain personal satisfaction when I’m able to help them, but I don’t do it for the satisfaction.

I think it’s a matter of our motives when doing something. . Everything I do isn’t because I will gain something from it. I don’t punish my son because I’ll gain anything from it, I punish him so he gains something from it. Sure, I’ll hopefully gain a son that no longer misbehaves, but that’s not the reason I do it. Some people could see it the other way though. They could see it as they punish their child so that they won’t have to deal with the misbehavior in the future, so they would be doing it to gain something.

MissCupid's avatar

It depends if you’re thinking of ‘gaining’ as a positive or a negative.

netgrrl's avatar

We are rewarded one way or another by any altruistic act. I do a lot of volunteer work, so I’ve had good reason to ponder this at one time or another. Even a gift given anonymously with no expectation of thanks isn’t completely without benefit to us – it makes us feel good.

However, if helping without any tangible benefit to ourselves still accomplishes a good thing, it doesn’t make the act any less worthwhile. After all, it still remained up to us to decide whether or not to do it.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Seaofclouds – you’re right, i think it all has to do with the way each individual interprets it.
So i must ask you, why do you want to see other people do well? You must gain some positive experience because of it, not so? In some way, it must make you happy to see those you help, be happy. You do say that you gain personal satisfaction, but i don’t think it’s a bonus feeling you get on the side, i think you maybe actually be doing it because in some way it makes you happy to see others happy. Similarly, people who don’t care about other or the suffering the may feel, will also not help them. Why? Because they don’t gain any satisfaction from helping others because they don’t care whether those in need are happy or not. Do you think there’s any truth to this?
Regarding punishing your child – you surely gain the satisfaction and peace of mind that your son will be a well adjusted individual in life (or whateve the case may be for the punishment). If you didn’t care about your son’s future, you wouldn’t care to punish him. Seeing your own child happy and doing well makes you happy inside, and that’s why you take steps to try to ensure that your son will be happy in life. I’m probably overusing the word happy as a blanket statement for the good things that it refers to as well.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@MissCupid – oh, i don’t mean it in a negative sense at all. Most times it’s a good thing – if you gain satisfaction from helping others (as a simple example), that needy person gains by the help you’ve given.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@netgrrl – that’s right. But also see my response to @Seaofclouds – in some way, doing something makes you happy, even if on the surface you don’t think so, even if it’s so small as to be your happiness at seeing someone else happy. So you’re gaining from it either way. In my opinion. :) This is just the way i see it.

netgrrl's avatar

@NaturallyMe Reading your posts and mine it would seem we agree. :)

Seaofclouds's avatar

@NaturallyMe I don’t always get satisfaction though. There are times as a nurse I’ve been cussed at, hit, bitten, spit on, and a ton of other negative things (trust me, none of those make me happy). That is always a possibility. So yes, I sometimes get personal satisfaction from helping people, but it’s not a guarantee. Regardless of that, I keep doing it.

Yes, I want to see my son grow up as a “well-adjusted adult”, but that’s not guaranteed either. Quite honestly, punishing him may stop one bad behavior, but there will be more. So the actually punishment doesn’t bring me anything good at that moment. I don’t gain anything in that moment. Long term, who knows what will happen.

That is why I said it depends on the motivation behind the action. I don’t help other people to make me happy and there have been times that helping other people has made me miserable.

Your question asks if we do things because we have something to gain from them. I say some of us do thing regardless of what the outcome will be for us. Something good may or may not happen. I’m sure there are people that will only do things based on what they get out of the situation, but I don’t think everyone does this.

As for why I want to see other people happy, I don’t have an answer to that, it’s just something I want for everyone, regardless of how I feel after helping them. I think everyone deserves happiness and I’ll do what I can to help them get it.

netgrrl's avatar

@seaofclouds There are many times we do things regardless of whether or not we see any benefit to us, because the act of doing them (even as unpleasant as it may seem at the time) still contributes positively to our sense of self. But it can be difficult to recognize because for many, it’s just what we do. smile

Seaofclouds's avatar

@netgrrl I see what you are saying. If we do things without recognizing something though, then we aren’t doing it just because we have somthing to gain (as the question asks).

perspicacious's avatar

No. I believe that people help others without expectation of a benefit.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@netgrrl – yes, you’ve said it better than me i think! One does indeed not always recognize the positive contribution (ie gain) one obtains from doing something, even if at the time if feels like you’re hating what you’re doing. Somewhere, somehow, you’re benefiting from it in some way, otherwise you would NOT do it.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@perspicacious – it’s all in the way we interpret it (ie gaining and what is gained). You can give me any scenario and i can tell you that you’re gaining something from it. (well, let’s say that i have yet to come accross a scenario that will prove me wrong).
Did you see my first response to seaofclouds, as an example?

Dutchess_III's avatar

Probably. @perspicacious If people help other people without expectation of benefit they’re still doing it because it makes them feel good. It may not be a material gain, but it’s an emotional gain.

josie's avatar

Most people act in their self interest. Even acts of charity are self gratifying for the giver.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@josie – my point exactly. :)

Dutchess_III's avatar

I hate it when people say stuff that I was trying to say, but they say it so succinctly! I feel jealous!
Nice work @josie

josie's avatar

@NaturallyMe I know. Just giving you back-up. BTW the converse is true. People who are charitable out of a sense of guilt are cheating themselves out of a great self esteem booster, and probably suffering eventually from repressed resentmentment, and eventually depressive disorder. Well, maybe…

cookieman's avatar

Yes. Even altruism pays dividends.

oops…basically what @josie said.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@josie – why thank you, i appreciate it! :)

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Dutchess_III – i KNOW! Other people often have the knack to word my thoughts so much better than myself!

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Yes. I feel really good when doing things for some but have no problem not doing a thing for particular others, I’m not altruistic.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Neizvestnaya So agree. Some people are just takers with no sense of gratitude.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Dutchess_III
True and there are those who okay when there’s no reciprocation or gratitude but I’m not one, I at least want to feel appreciated a little bit. My bf is one of those generous easy going types. He’s helped several people who will never pay him back and he doesn’t even give it much thought. I like that about him though.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Neizvestnaya I’m not OK with it either. Further, you’re not really helping those kinds of people. Just enabling them to continue going around and mooch from other people. That’s nothing to feel good about. What is your bf’s name and phone number???????? :)

Neizvestnaya's avatar

@Dutchess_III
:) I’ve tried to curb him back a bit. I tell him to buy his sailboat first then start up a charity.

perspicacious's avatar

@NaturallyMe @Dutchess_III I have seen people help others when there is no way it can make them feel good. It’s done because they believe it is the right thing to do, or because of ethics (sometimes professional ethics). So, my answer stands.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@perspicacious Can you give us an example? But basically, doing the “right thing” makes people feel good.

netgrrl's avatar

I don’t think it’s about whether or not the act makes us feed good, that may be stretching it a bit. If I just want to do something that makes me smile, there’s all kinds of little random act of kindness I could do. Paying for the coffee of the next person in line at the coffeehouse is a good example. I know they can pay for it, obviously. But the surprise and the smile is well worth it, and I’m smiling as I drink my latte.

But biologically, we get something from every act we perform for others, even if we don’t identify it. Look long enough at any given example and you can find it.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I do a lot of things that are hard work for free that are designed to benefit others far more than I might benefit from doing something worthwhile.

So, no I do not believe that everything I do, I do because I have something to gain from it!

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence – yes, but in some way you must benefit (be it satisfaction from helping others or whatever) from seeing others benefit, otherwise i would guarantee you won’t do it. It’s a positive experience for you in some way to see others benefit? If it weren’t so, you’d not care about others and whether they benefit or not and so you wouldn’t bother helping them. I think if everyone looks REALLY deep down, they’ll find what they’re benefitting in any given situation, even if it’s not abvious at the outset. And also, benefitting is not a bad thing…

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Neizvestnaya – you don’t have to be altruistic by benefitting from every single thing you do, there’s nothing wrong with benefitting yourself. You may not be doing it with the main goal of benefitting yourself, but in the end you have benefitted something from everything that you’ve done.
In helping someone else, it obviously shows that you care for others, which is a good thing. In helping them, you obtain some satisfaction in seeing those you care about (whether it be a loved one a comlete stranger) be happier for the act that you’ve done for them.
It’s really not a negative thing that i’m talking about here.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@NaturallyMe Of course, there are natural reinforcements that arise even for acts intended to be selfless. These reinforcers increase the likelihood that I will continue to engage in these helping behaviours. I can live with these minor benefits, I am not some sort of ascetic. That does not diminish my altruistic intentions.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence – for sure, it doesn’t diminish your altruistic intentions one single bit. A good deed done is a good deed done, no matter with what intentions they’ve been done (within reason of course, i know there are exceptions).

Seaofclouds's avatar

@NaturallyMe I completely see what you are saying about there being something good in the end with most actions. Your questions ask if we do things because of that. It is possible to do things without thinking about that good at the end as our motivation. Some people do, some people don’t. When I help someone, I think about helping them, not how I will feel when all is said and done. So, while in the end we may gain some personal happiness and personal satisfaction, that isn’t the reason we do things (at least it’s not the reason I do things).

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Seaofclouds – hmm…maybe i just perceive gaining differently than ya’ll who disagree with my question. Because to me, i literally can find a solid reason as to why i (and others) do something, and that something is a gain to them in some way or form. And i’d even go so far as to say that the only reason they’re doing it is because of that particular gain they’re getting – although that gain is not always on the foreground of why they’re doing it, but only in the background, if you get my drift. My question really has no bearing on altruism or the lack thereof (or isn’t intended to anyway). And i’ll say it again, just to be clear, it’s not at all a bad thing this personal gain that i keep talking about, and it’s not meant to take away from those who feel they are being altruistic, but that’s not what it’s about and it doesn’t take away from their altruism one bit. In fact, the type of gain i’m talking about is so miniscule at times that it can’t negate an altruistic act, in my opinion.
But this is just my personal opinion and i the way i see it. :) I’m not trying to convince anyone to see it my way…i just wanted to see if there is anyone else here who sees it like i do.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@NaturallyMe I get what you are saying, I just disagree. :-) I believe people can do things without regard to what they get from it in the end.

netgrrl's avatar

I find it interesting that while many believe that it is possible to act in a completely unselfish way, no one can really furnish real-world examples. I still think we get something from everything we do, regardless of whether we consider it consciously or not.

Seaofclouds's avatar

@netgrrl I agree that we get something, I just don’t agree that we do things just because we get something from them. I don’t help people because I know it will make me feel good afterwards, I help them because I want them to feel better. Honestly, there have been times where I haven’t felt good after helping someone. I would still do it all over again, even though I wasn’t happy afterwards.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Seaofclouds – thanx for the discussion. :)
@netgrrl – well i guess you’re the only one here that sees it like it do! ;)

Dutchess_III's avatar

I agree with you, @NaturallyMe!!!! I’ve done completely unselfish things, for my kids and stuff, but it was because I thought it was best for them….

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Dutchess_III – Yay! :D But @netgrrl has already won the prize for agreeing with me first. So you just get to make me a sammich, and hold the meat please. :)

Dutchess_III's avatar

Hands @NaturallyMe a HAM SANDWICH disguised to look like chocolate.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Dutchess_IIISIGH i see i’ll have to retrain you all over again

Dutchess_III's avatar

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Dr_Lawrence's avatar

@NaturallyMe Is it your view that even where someone does something altruistic at the spur of the moment without any thought to whether they might get into trouble or gain satisfaction from doing so, that their act is necessarily self-serving or they would not have done it?

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence – well, yes, i believe so. Let’s just say i’ve just had a meal at a restaurant and asked for a takeaway container to take home the left overes. I’m on my way walking back to the car, thinking obviously how i’m going to enjoy having this as a midnight snack or breakfast tomorrow morning. Then suddenly i see this homeless person sitting on the pavement and just decide on the spur of the moment to give it to them because they obviously need it more than me. Even though it was a quick decision that ruined my plans of having a lovely meal at a later stage, at the back of my mind it makes me happy to have given this person something to eat for tonight, knowing that at least today they won’t go as hungry.
So i’m saying that if i cared nothing for humanity and starving people and things, i would not have given my food to him, because i gain nothing from doing something for something/someone i don’t care about in some way.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

The negative part to all this is that even the best conduct is tainted by the stain of self-interest.
Therefore there is no such thing as a charitable act of the highest level.
Therefore every good deed is little more than self-aggrandizing selfish behaviour.
It sure takes the joy out of attempts at altruism. It cheapen such acts of giving.
Does even organ donation after death escape this taint?

netgrrl's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence It doesn’t taint anything. I could do something consciously for even the most self-serving of reasons (known only to me) and it doesn’t in any way lessen the good effect.

But most of it isn’t conscious, it’s not “self-aggrandizing selfish behavior”, it’s simply in us to do these things.

But for a conscious example, consider this: when I started volunteering for the Rape Crisis Center, I would go on call on Saturday until Monday morning. That meant I had to arrange with the previous volunteer to pick up the pager back on Saturday morning.

I hated getting up early on Saturdays just to go out and pick up the pager bag.

After a few months, I changed my one weekend a month from Friday evenings until Monday morning. That way I could pick up the pager back on Friday afternoon at 5 pm, which was more convenient for me.

But it was seen by others as an unselfish act, because it meant I was on call for more hours and would be called out to the hospital ER more often.

Does making a small change for me lessen the effect of what I do? I don’t think so. I accept that I did it for me, for my own reasons. The rape victim I see at the ER at 2 am doesn’t know that.

But regarding unconscious acts, all I am saying is that the giver gets something out of every act, even if it’s not decided, conscious or perceived. It doesn’t cheapen anything, it just is.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence – i don’t see it as a negative thing at all, ever. Why is it negative when you also benefit? It’s not like you’ve benefitted something evil at the expense of another – both of you benefitted from the situation – i seriously see nothing wrong or negative about that, and i’ve never understood why it should “taint” a good deed.
Would you say i was self-aggrandizing myself in my example? (it wasn’t a true story, just an example). Why is it a negative thing that i obtain happiness through helping someone who really needs that help? Should i try to negate that happiness because it is somehow evil and wrong? Do you ask these questions because you feel some sort of guilt in obtaining even the slightest bit of happiness through helping someone? In which case i dare say the issue lies with you, and not with the fact that it’s wrong to benefit by helping. (i’m talking in general, not aiming this at you, and just trying to understand what is reasoning behind someone thinking that a giver who benefits is wrong/negative).
If you’re helping some stranger with something, and maybe you don’t even like them for some reason, and it really was a schlepp and out of your way to help them…what is the reason that you helped them then, if it is that you percieve yourself as gaining nothing from it? Is it because it was “the right thing to do” in your opinion, even if you didn’t like it? If so, then i must ask, do you feel better about yourself for doing “the right thing” as opposed to how you would have felt about yourself had you not done “the right thing”? Everybody does “the right thing” with some reasoning behind it, whatever that right thing may be in your case (moral beliefs, duty to humanity or whatever). And those who choose to do “the right thing” despite the fact that they hated doing it, felt better about themselves in some way for having done “the right thing”, otherwise they would not have bothered doing the right thing.
Do you see where i’m coming from?

Dutchess_III's avatar

I’m so in agreement with @NaturallyMe and @netgrrl. Just because doing something nice, or doing the right thing, makes you feel good, it doesn’t make it cheap.

Once upon a time I was really, really poor. I went to the bank to get an $8.00 money order. The kid was new, his supervisor was standing behind him telling him how to do it. The supervisor missed the fact that the kid had made it out for $80 instead of $8. You have no idea what $80 would have meant to me at that time! I could have just walked out with it and paid my utility bill! But….I knew the kid would get in trouble. I kept pushing the MO back to the kid, making wide eyes and funny head movements, hoping he’d catch it “himself”—so he wouldn’t get in trouble. He didn’t pick up on what I was doing, so I finally had to tell him straight out what was wrong….so, because it made me feel good to help the kid out, that made it a “cheap” act?

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

I believe that doing right is a moral and social good. I guess the idealist in me wishes there could be sure a thing as an unselfish act.

Does this mean that some of the great humans whom people admire for their selfless devotion to others could not have done a single act of charity or kindness, big or small, without secondary gain?

It may be true, but what a pity!

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence The secondary gain can be as simple as a good feeling knowing that you’re doing a good thing, or a feeling of peace, or a feeling that you’re fulfilling a destiny or something. Mother Teresa was about as selfless as a person can get, but it’s not like she did what she did with no emotion or feeling about it. And feeling good about something doesn’t always make a person “righteous” either.

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

We do everything because of how we expect to benefit.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence I guess you lost me with that last comment above, “What a pity…” ?

netgrrl's avatar

I’m sorry, but in my opinion, Mother Teresa was no friend to the poor, she was a fanatic who believed in poverty, that suffering was a gift from God. It’s easy to see where her motivation came from.

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Dr_Lawrence – well, i suppose there’s nothing more i can say if you believe that it’s a pity to be happy about doing a good deed…would you prefer someone to be miserable and depressed for having done something good and would that make the act selfless in your opinion? An act can still be extremely kind and charitable, but if it makes you happy (ie your gain), does that negate the charible deed? I’m not sure why you see happiness as a pity…

Dutchess_III's avatar

@NaturallyMe Exactly. No deed is done with a complete absence of emotion, and emotion itself is a reward.

Seaofclouds's avatar

Emotion isn’t always a reward. I have an example of doing something without getting a reward, I was just hesitant on sharing it, but I will.

When I was pregnant, my parents were finalizing their divorce (well really just finishing separating property, the actual divorce was done). They had a lot of ill feelings towards each other and couldn’t be in a room together without it getting ugly. They needed to divide the family pictures and had to have someone with them to “keep the peace”. No one wanted to do it. I didn’t want to do it because of being pregnant, but I did it because I felt like I had to since no one else would and I’m the oldest child. I had to stand in between them as we started going through every photo album (about 23 years worth of pictures). It was a tense situation, they were bickering and I just wanted it to be over. They got about a third of the way into it and really started going at it. I told them both to knock it off or we were going to stop. My dad decided to raise his fist to me and almost punched me (I was about 6 months pregnant). The only thing that stopped him was my mom jumping in between us. She kicked him out of her house, I grabbed all of the photo albums, and I left. I gained nothing out of that and I really wish I wasn’t put in the position I was, but they couldn’t be alone together and someone had to do it. Over the years since then, I have given each of them new photo albums containing the pictures.

Even if it would have went smoothly I wouldn’t have been happy about it. Their divorce was awful and caused a lot of problems in our family because of the way it went down. To this day, thinking about that day makes me feel physically ill (which is why I was hesitant to share it).

NaturallyMe's avatar

@Seaofclouds – well, i’m really sorry you had drudge up those nasty memories, i hope you’ll get them out of your mind again soon. :) (tnx for sharing though, i think?)
Now i don’t really want to discuss it anymore if you feel that way, so if you really don’t want to, just ignore what i have to say here:
I’m wondering why you felt that it was you who had to be there with them? What stopped you from obeying your feelings of disdain at being with them at that time?
I’m not suggesting this is it, but if you felt you had to do it bcause nobody else stepped up and you felt it would be the right thing to do, did you not then feel better about yourself because you felt you had done the right thing, even though you hated doing it? Would having not done it have changed anyone’s opinion of you or something?

Seaofclouds's avatar

I felt I had to because no one else would (like it was my responsibility). No one else wanted to do it, but they couldn’t do it on their own because of the tension in their split. I didn’t obey my feelings because I knew that they had to have a mediator to get things done and my mom wanted me to be there just in case. They should have done it in court, but that was a whole different issue. I didn’t feel it was the right thing to do at all. The whole time I felt it was wrong for me to get involved (I would have much rather stayed out of their divorce). No opinions would have been changed if I didn’t do it, quite a few thought I was crazy for doing it. I don’t feel good about being there for my mom or happy that I was able to be there for her when she needed me. It actually made me dislike her for a long time and just get mad at myself for getting involved. My mom and I have since moved on passed it.

NaturallyMe's avatar

Ok, well i won’t go on much further about it. :)

The reason i asked those things is because similar things (in a way!) happened to me. A certain family member and i can sometimes really get stuck where we just get angry at each other, and when this is the particular mood at the time, but i still had to do something for them or something they wished for me to do, i would obviously not be happy in complying with what they were expecting of me, but i would do it for the sake of getting them off my case (in which case i “gained” relief), or i’d do it so that i don’t have to deal with the repercussions from them of not doing it (in which case i also “gain” relief or something similar). Some of these things i did which even to this day i’m not particularly happy that i did them, but even though i hated the fact that i did them, i still gained something from them and that’s why i did it. It may not have been happiness, but relief is pretty close to that. I was just using happiness in my comments above because it’s the easiest example i could think of in trying to explain my point of view.
I also believe that sometimes you can’t perceive what it is you’ve gained, like in your example, where neither i nor you could figure out what it is you could possibly have gained, in which case it’s more subconscious.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Seaofclouds :( Divorce sucks.

I’m sorry you went through it, but from what you said about your dad….geez.

However, you fulfilled the sense of responsibility you felt. How would you have felt if you had refused to do it? Maybe the “reward” was simply not having to feel like you would have it you had let your Mom down. (Man, that situation just sucked so bad)

Seaofclouds's avatar

@Dutchess_III If I wouldn’t have done it, I would have been a lot happier. It messed with the relationship I had with my mom and put my son in unnecessary danger before he was even born.

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