Selfless


This is an open thread.

I would like to hear occasions when you or someone you know has been selfless, that is, acted and they didn’t stand a chance to benefit in any way.

To put it differently, is selflessness possible?

About makagutu

As Onyango Makagutu I am Kenyan, as far as I am a man, I am a citizen of the world

77 thoughts on “Selfless

  1. mark says:

    That’s a tough one and I’m not even sure there is such a thing as a 100% selfless act. I would say that the way that you have worded the question is very clever because anyone who would answer by citing a selfless act that they have done could be said to have disqualified themselves by telling it. By mentioning it here now attracts a certain kind of positive response, which although not a bad thing is certainly a benefit to the tellers ego. Surely a totally selfless act would be totally without ego. If that makes any kind of sense.
    I soon as I read the question I thought about my Granda who is 98 and an amazingly beautiful human being. A few weeks ago he telephoned me to tell me that my sister was pregnant. I remember speaking to him and thinking about how joyously happy he was and how happy he was to tell me. Later on when I thought about it I came to the conclusion that now at his age all his happiness is derived from good things happening to the people that he loves. He doesn’t go out of his way and try to give himself little rewards like how most people do by buying new music or clothes or making sure they get an hour to themselves in the bath. I can honestly say that all his joy comes from the people he loves. At the time I didn’t remark to myself that it was ‘selfless’ and the most selfless that I’ve ever known anyone to be. I know it’s not an act as such and more a state of being, but it was most definitely selfless.
    I hope this makes sense. I think it says a lot about ego and age and life in general.

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    • makagutu says:

      Hello Mark and thanks for your comment.
      You have captured the essence of the question.I like the response you have given.
      But don’t you think because telling you about your sister’s pregnancy gives him joy, that is a benefit to him? He wouldn’t do it for any other reason other than it makes him happy.
      And I am happy for your sister and wish her well during the pregnancy

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      • mark says:

        Yes I do agree with you that there was a benefit to him, you could tell that he was happy to be the bringer of good news. But in his day to day persona and his thoughts, that would be the closest to selfless that I have known anyone to be. The more I think about it the more I think that a completely selfless act is impossible in humans. I have had some other thoughts, but I think it would be best to wait until there are more comments here first. I am fascinated to hear what others have to say about it.

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  2. emmylgant says:

    In as much as altruism seems to have a built-in feel good side effect, one could argue that there is no selfless act.
    The unseen act of kindness is still an act of kindness however. Does it matter who benefits?

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  3. Arkenaten says:

    Well, I know John looks after abandoned animals (dogs) and runs around town filling water bowls for the strays.
    I think this would be regarded as selfless behaviour – unless you count the positive kick – back of emotional satisfaction knowing one has helped an animal?

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    • makagutu says:

      Interesting point, the thought of seeing a homeless or abandoned dog that he could give a home I think would give him so much pain.
      I think he gets two benefits, he avoids pain that would arise and is also happy to see the dog doing well. Let’s hope he will show up unless you have kept him busy dealing with Insanity!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Arkenaten says:

    Well, I know John looks after abandoned animals (dogs) and runs around town filling water bowls for the strays.
    I think this would be regarded as selfless behaviour – unless you count the positive kick – back of emotional satisfaction knowing one has helped an animal?

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  5. aguywithoutboxers says:

    I think that sometimes we tend to overlook the truly selfless gestures that we see in our everyday lives. This past weekend, a child of perhaps 7 years of age was buying some candy. He was maybe 32 cents short of having enough money. An elderly woman gave him the rest. Selfless? Yes. She had nothing to gain from her kindness. Much love and naked hugs, my Nairobi brother! 🙂

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    • makagutu says:

      Hahaha, she had a lot to gain in that act. It would pain her to see that child unhappy. And that my friend is a benefit. She is avoiding pain.
      Have a pleasant week

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  6. ladysighs says:

    I only confess in the privacy of the confessional booth. 😦

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  7. shelldigger says:

    I can’t count the times I have helped stranded motorists. They always want to know if they can pay me, I tell em to pay it forward.

    Does that count? Or am I stroking my ego? Now I am confuzzled.

    Most recent episode, I saw a one amed man in a parking lot struggling with something under the hood. My curious nature and a long running mechanical streak prompted me to take a look. I don’t even remember what it was now, but I handled the issue in less than 3 minutes, that he had been struggling with for some time. (of course I had the benefit of two hands)

    …and when he offered to pay me, “pay it forward”

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  8. Great idea for a post, Mak. I’m pretty certain if we do an act of any kind it is done with motivation from our “self”. To do an act without one’s self being involved or motivated in some way one would have to not have a self to be motivated to do the act in the first place. I can only do a selfless act if I have no self which motivates me to do the act. To be without a “self” concept is to not be yourself. And you thought WLC was a windbag, eh?

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  9. themodernidiot says:

    I tipped a waitress my last hundred bucks because she was tired but awesome. I rescued dogs. I gave a girl a book I was reading because she had never read it. I gave up my life in AZ to move home and care for my brother. My family has fed and sheltered numerous friends, relatives, and strangers over the years even though we did not have the room or the money. Why would you think there were no selfless acts? The act is selfless if the motivation to do it is without regard to reciprocity. Any reward that results has no bearing on the original intent. I didnt think about what I would get from it, I was motivated by what the other oerson needed. People do nice shit without asking all the time. You as a kind generous person should know that.

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    • makagutu says:

      Sweetheart, it isn’t that I deny people doing nice shit, no, my enquiry is whether this nice shit would be done if we didn’t benefit in some way. The other thing I am trying to point out is how un-reflective we are most of the time. We tell ourselves that this and that act was selfless, we forget that there are different levels of reward; approval by friends & colleagues, peace of mind, joy and so on that each of these acts bring to us. And yours truly is as guilty as the rest of us.

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      • themodernidiot says:

        I know Love, but i have to wonder if we have a do-good trait as a survival mechanism. Were we limited to ulterior motive, i truly believe our selfish nature would grow enough to cause our die off. It is an excellent question you pose and hard to answer with an adult mind and knowledge that every action has a reaction. So maybe try watching children who have yet to develop a sense of reciprocity. Do they do things for others?

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  10. john zande says:

    We adopted a new cat yesterday morning. He was standing at our gate when I went outside in the morning. I invited him in. His name is Darwin 🙂

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  11. Love this post. We are biologically rewarded (whether we realize it or not) for selfless, altruistic behavior.

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  12. Altruism, a Biological Imperative?

    Whenever researchers use magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to observe test subjects as they perform a particular task, it seems that some new secret of our brains is unlocked. Altruism is no exception.

    One 2006 study focused on anonymous charitable donations, which are pretty specific altruistic acts: The giver receives no tangible reward, he or she gives away hard-earned money to benefit a total stranger, and he or she cannot expect any thanks, since the donation is anonymous. It’s altruism at its purest.

    But researchers found that the subjects that contributed to charities did receive some benefit: the warm-fuzzies. In the study, 19 female volunteers had a choice: They could keep money or donate it to charities of differing ideologies. The researchers found that giving money activated the same reward center in the brain that was activated when the participants received money .

    More http://science.howstuffworks.com/life/evolution/unselfish-act1.htm

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  13. Tish Farrell says:

    I like the way you keep us on our toes. I think selflessness probably is an impossibility. On the other hand, we might act unselfishly – which is more about sharing our good fortune without expectation of repayment in kind. Then there is the problem of thinking one is being selfless, and doing things for people that they really do not need. In other words we can be past masters of self-deception on this front.

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    • makagutu says:

      All of you make it worthwhile by the questions, comments and insights you bring from your rich lives. I benefit from all of you, or is it most 😛
      The repayment we may get is not likely money or a medal but we may get recognition, we may feel good about ourselves. There are many and varied rewards we can think of.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. My third novel focuses on such a man, Emile Zola. And, how he wrote to defend Alfred Dreyfus, an innocent man who was incarcerated in Devil’s Island unjustly. Zola’s public letter in the largest Paris press, ended with him having a libel trial, threats on his life, his rockes thrown through windows, and fleeing France, and fearing for his life for the rest of his life. I just finished reading the 500+ page Zoal libel trial. Hard not to have to take an antacid.

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  15. the most selfless act I’ve seen is my dad when he helped two stranded motorists. Someone else found them and knew my dad was a mechanic and could help. He went out in what was a blizzard, on a tractor with no cab, drove for about 7 miles, pulled them out of the ditch, and then brought them home to stay with us for the night He didn’t charge them anything and anyone knows that riding a tractor with an open seat isn’t something you willingly do in a snow storm. I would argue that any feelings of happiness from helping someone were balanced out by the danger he put himself in to do this, and it was a selfless act.

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    • makagutu says:

      this is a very interesting scenario. the reward a person gets maybe small compared to the danger he exposes himself to, the thing is he wouldn’t get himself to do it if there wasn’t something in it for him.

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      • I agree. I think that one may be able to divide the concept into those who do things and get pleasure from within themselves through empathy, and those who require an external source of reward, such as theists who evidently need the promise of heaven to do things that are good.

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