Saturday, April 26, 2008

Do We Really Care?

A couple of weeks ago, I informed anyone who would "listen" that I would express my opinion on any topic that they desired. I did get some requests via email. Not long after that, drama ensued in my life leaving this little exercise on the back burner. However, me being the honor-my-commitments kind of guy, I am going to deal with one of them today. Since this request came via email, I can only assume that the sender wanted to remain anonymous. So he/she shall be in this post also.

The question of the day is: Do people STILL care about others today in this morally depraved world?

This question assumes that people, for the most part, did care for others and now there is not enough evidence to take that concept as a given. I am not prepared to concede that given, but I can leave that argument for another time (or you can draw your own conclusions based on this response).

One interesting thing about principles and rules is that there are always exceptions. Some even argue that the exception proves the rule. Thank God there may be exceptions to the rule I have discovered about caring people. There are some caring people out there; there must be! However, truly it is a rare thing. Often times, we read in the paper where someone did a very giving thing and helped out his fellow man at personal cost or inconvenience. It makes it in the paper or on the television news because it is unusual. If it weren't, it would be commonplace and hardly newsworthy. Because it makes it into the media, we have the reaction of, "see, there ARE good people in the world!" Alas, I must conclude, however, that the exception proves the rule - that rule being: For the most part, people do NOT really care about others.

Sure, people say they care. They may even believe, at some level, that they do care about others. We know, that talk is cheap and only by our actions can we really discover how caring we are. True active care and compassion just doesn't happen with much regularity. It takes a great deal of strength to put stated compassion into action. However, we are not as strong as we think we are. There have been many studies done on this. ABC's Primetime Live and/or 20/20 has shown hidden camera reports how most people ignore or avoid situations where perhaps God or even good morality would convict them to help a fellow human. People just don't want to put themselves out or risk their own safety to help others. No one is willing to sacrifice. They just can't get involved in something that won't benefit them in some way, much less, set themselves back. It just isn't done.


We are greedy. Oh, it isn't totally our fault, we grow up in a system that rewards greed - in fact, it glorifies it. Many believe that capitalism is a system sent by God. However, all it is really is dressed up greed. Today, it runs amok. Let the market decide! Well, the market decided that Walmart is our goods god, and Mom and Pop stores aren't worth our time or money. Guess what? Mom and Pop are humans trying to get by in this world. Who cares? We aren't going to pay an extra quarter to Mom and Pop as long as the Walton family has anything to say about it by offering "lower prices, everyday. Find us right next to the general store with the boarded up windows" No sacrifice. Greed. Greed by the Waltons. Greed by the consumer.

However, we cannot blame the Waltons nor our bad neighbors that won't patronize Mom and Pop anymore. We can't because greed is a disease. It permeates all of us. It is all we know and it is the consequence of a fallen world. We have to look out for Number One, don't we? Of course, we do! No one else will because of their own greed. We are forced to be greedy or risk ending up like Mom and Pop.

There are also other things that add to our selfishness. Fifteen percent of our population either suffers from depression now or has at some point in their lives. Depression is a selfish disease of the soul - the heart of what we are. When a person is in depression mode, they care nothing about nor even realize the needs of the people around them. If the depression does not act as a contageon (which often times it does), the selfishness that bathes in it will certainly be contageous - if for no other reason for suvival reasons. Depression is another result of the fall of mankind.

The opposite of greed and selfishness is sacrifice. We just don't. The world calls us foolish for sacrificing for others. The golden rule today isn't, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." No, it is do unto others FIRST, before they have a chance to do unto you." Make sure you get yours. Of course, some do sacrifice for others - their time, even money. However, often times it is a calculated move. Do you think that big corporations give to needy causes because they are good? Nope. They give because it looks good for them. That money comes straight out of their marketing budget. Plus, they get tax breaks on top of it. We, as individuals, get a payback for being kind to others in a different way. We do it because it gives us a good reputation. There also may be a monetary reward for our good deeds. Sometimes we do it so we can convince ourselves that we are good. There is not much more valuable to a human being than a well-placed ego stroke.

When I think of sacrifice, I think of Jesus. By all records, He didn't do ONE thing for his own interest. He dedicated His life in its entirety, including His death, for the direct benefit of others. Still, those who are Christians among us, praise Him, but act the opposite in our own lives.

Is it hopeless? It appears so in the big picture, but not so much in our individual lives. However, it takes effort. I sold my beloved truck to a neighbor for well below its value. He needed transportation to make a living (in a truck) and to take care of his wife who was in poor health. Am I tooting my own horn? Hardly. Not a day goes by when I get tempted to question my action because it kind of put me out. I have to force myself to believe it was the right thing to do sometimes. I must shamefully admit that the disease of self runs through my blood also. However, we can make the effort and choose to be caring and selfless. It is somewhat artificial because it is against our nature, but we can do it. That should give us hope that we CAN be the exception to this rule.

It, indeed, takes strength to pursue a life of caring for others - uncommon strength.

We are frail
We are fearfully and wonderfully made
Forged in the fires of human passion
Choking on the fumes of selfish rage
And with these our hells and our heavens
So few inches apart
We must be awfully small
And not as strong as we think we are

--Rich Mullins
No, we are not as strong as we think we are. But, perhaps there is hope.

17 comments:

kristarella said...

Sometimes I don't understand the greedy mentality... yeah I can be selfish, but I've never considered myself "number one". Maybe my weaknesses are elsewhere.

I agree with your first paragraph. The word "still" doesn't apply. If we are greedy and immoral now, then we always were. Humanity is no better or worse than it ever was. I can't bare to watch or read the news because whatever isn't about celebrities getting married, divorced, impregnated, or surgically improved is about people being murdered, beaten, raped, bombed, drowned... Is it any worse than the past? No way.

Sayre said...

There's a reason for the phrase "dog eat dog" to describe the world. Do unto others before they can do unto you? Yep - all around us. Yet, I still hold out hope that I will do the right thing from my heart rather than do the wrong thing or the right thing for the wrong reasons. I know this is not always true of me or anyone else, but at least I make an effort. I would hope that there are a lot of people out there who do the same...

Charles said...

I guess I assumed that you wanted our questions sent via email. I didn't ever think to publish it as a comment. Oh, you didn't have to make it anonymous.

Your right, it isn't what I expected (in a good way). I guess having "still" in my question is proof that I am STILL as naive as I was in 2007 when I assumed that a person making an excellent salary would have good ethics. However some don't. Their are some people who are well off that still steal. I guess maybe my method or rationalizing is flawed somewhat.

I agree with you on this. People for the most part are greedy and selfish. When I was in high school I had my coat stolen out of my locker. The thief didn't care that it was winter when it happened, and he didn't care that my keys were in my coat.

Chris said...

One thing about the content of the news and lack of reports of anyone caring, is that I try to keep it in perspective. This little bit helps me:

"Most of the news that is reported as the events of the day represents a tiny portion of what actually happened that day, generally the worst and the waste. The garage in your trash can is not a fair representation of your life, and the daily news is not a fair representation of life on the planet."

Chris said...

Forgot to cite that quote, it was Alan Cohen from "Why Your Life Sucks and What You Can Do About It", page 53.

Jeff said...

Kristarella: I agree that humanity is no better or worse than it ever was. However, I do think as time goes by, we have been given permission by society to act in more of a representative way in accordance to the condition our souls have always been.

Sayre: That is my hope as well. It will take work, but work makes habit and habit for caring for others is the only way (other than divine intervention) that we can change our nature.

Jeff said...

Charles: Any way you wanted to ask was fine with me. I put out the email address or the feedback - whatever way anyone feels comfortable. Everyone tended to use the email which was great. I think I did prefer it that way.

This topic was a good one to bring up. Thank you, Charles. It is kind of sobering for myself to process my thoughts on it. Still, there is always room for hope.

Chris: I agree with your thoughts. However, when you hear of someone actually sacrificing for someone else, it does get good play in the media. It has water cooler appeal. Therefore, we must conclude that the big sacrifices are few and far between. If we heard about them more in the media, it wouldn't sell as much. If we heard them less, than it means it is too common place. The amount of media coverage, to me, means that it is rare enough to report as news.

HollyGL said...

Well, let's see... I've never actually talked about a lot of this but, here goes: when I was preparing to move to Chicago, I needed to sell my car. I had a good friend who was a single mom with a car that was about to konk out, and I sold it to her for waaay less than even the car dealership offered me. It was exactly the amount I was short in order to make my move happen. I've done that kind of thing a lot in my life.

In Chicago, I'm given repeated opportunities to step up to the plate for people around me, and I do. I mean, I haven't jumped in the middle of gunfire, but I have frequently done things along the lines of helping elderly people hail cabs - when I'm late for work, or after a day from hell at work, or helping a woman trying to carry far too many groceries, much too long a distance - on my way home from work. Granted, I'm no hero, but I couldn't imagine not doing those sorts of things. Just couldn't imagine it. ...and I'm not even a "Christian" - I'm a New Ager!! Probably the result of having been raised Episcopalian, and attending Catholic school. ;) (That's a joke, by the way) Your readers are probably going to hate me now...

Anyway, my favorite show on tv is Extreme Home Makeover. I mean I never miss it. Even though I will undoubtedly be crying my eyes out periodically at one point or another while watching it. Tonight's episode was about a man who moved himself and his family into one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the nation, and was doing wonders turning it around. This show is on every week. Hundreds of people volunteer every week to help change someone's life in a big way.

So... I do believe that people still care. I believe it because I'm one of them. I'm far from a saint, but I do genuinely care about people (and animals) :).

I can't speak objectively about Depression having watched my mom suffer from - and eventually succumb to - Major Depression. I will say that I believe there is more to it than mere "selfishness", though I will concede that an inability to view life from anything but a subjective place goes hand in hand with the illness.

Good post, Jeff. It definitely got my engines going!! :)

The Real Mother Hen said...

See, the world NEEDS ME!
Ohhh what can I say!

Jeff said...

HollyGl: I have known you long enough to concede that you are the exception to the rule. That is why you are so endeared. You may find this puzzling, but I don't think Christians have an inside track on being caring. My personal observations show me the opposite, I regretfully must admit. However, when I do find the Christian exception to my "caring people" law, I know that the person is a REAL Christian and not just someone wearing a Christian's clothes, so to speak.

Mother Hen: Of COURSE!! :)

HollyGL said...

Thanks, Jeff. I agree completely about someone who is a true Christian. All faiths run the gamut, that's for sure!

HoosierGirl5 said...

You've been tagged!

J.

Michelle said...

Very thought provoking, Jeff!

One comment. You said:
"It makes it in the paper or on the television news because it is unusual. If it weren't, it would be commonplace and hardly newsworthy."

Actually that is incorrect. Most news media admit they will ditch the happy caring story for the violent/scary story every time... because scary or horrific draws people to buy papers or watch the news. People aren't rivetted by headlines "Man saves ducklings", but they are by "Man kills child". We are more fascinated by horror than beauty. We are drawn to fire engines and car crashes rather than boy scouts helping old ladies cross the road and news media are aware of this. They only put in the odd caring story as "filler".

The plus of this fact is that there are way more caring stories than ever reach the main media, plus caring events are rarely reported to the news media, whereas crimes and complaints are.

That being said I do think modern parenting is often lacking in teaching children to care about others. Things such as good manners, being polite, sharing, etc do seem to be dwindling.

Michelle said...

Seperate comment for depression, because I forgot. (lol)

I think all mental illness is self-based, but to classify it as selfish is unfair. Yes, a person who is depressed ares nothing for others, but they aren't in a state to care. It's like classifying someone in a coma as "selfish" for not getting up and making dinner.

I've pushed down feeling depressed because I didn't want to upset those who loved me. In the long eun it didn't help me or them. I just suppressed rather than dealt with. Part of caring is first caring for yourself, even the Bible acknowledges that fact. You must first have a healthy relationship with yourself before you can cope with caring about others - love others as you love yourself.

So a lack of caring usually shows a person who has a warped self-image - either too selfish or lacking self-love. I've known unhappy people with low self-esteem who stole or committed minor crime because they cared nothing for themselves AS WELL as caring nothing for others.

Jeff said...

It seems that we have a heckler, ladies and gentlemen. ;) Just kidding; I love a good discussion. I will try to be more careful with my rebuttals, though, than I have been in the past with other dissenters. Let me apologize in advance, Michelle, if I state something gives you the inclination of being upset with me. It isn't my intention.

Michelle: About caring acts in the media, I don't think your argument negates mine. I think we are looking at the issue from two different angles. You are looking at reporting caring acts vs. heinous acts. I am looking at it from the angle that common place happenings are not newsworthy. These concepts aren't mutually exclusive. I agree that bad news takes precedence. Anything that causes fear will pre-occupy the mind a lot more than a warm fuzzy story. Bad news sells!

However, if a wealthy stranger pays the medical bills of an accident victim who has no insurance was commonplace, it wouldn't EVER be reported. People would have the attitude of "don't worry about his medical bills, someone that can, will show up and pay them. They always do."

As far as the depression thing, I still stand by my assertion of depression being selfish. As a matter of fact, I have an entire post on this back in the archives somewhere. It is my most googled post and I will revise and reprint it soon.

In the meantime, here is my position regarding this discussion:

According to Merriam-Webster, selfish is defined, "1: concerned excessively or exclusively with oneself : seeking or concentrating on one's own advantage, pleasure, or well-being without regard for others"

This is the MAIN position of anyone that is suffering from depression. Depression is selfish by definition. My wife hates it when I bring this up, too. But objectively, that is the way it is. I am not buying the bit about the coma victim because the coma victim is not putting himself/herself ahead of anyone; they are just there. There is no mental thought at all. They may not be preparing dinner for others, but they certainly aren not fixing it for themselves only or trampling on others feelings. As a matter of fact, coma victims are probably the least demanding of all severe medical patients.

I think our disagreement stems from how we view the term "selfish" You (and my wife) take the term and assign a moral value to it. Sure, it often accompanies that when discussing it in every day life, but that is really subjective. I understand that depression victims do not necessarily WANT to be selfish. I assign no motivation for them. However, it is what it is and I think it is important that they (we) understand that.

I have suffered with depression myself. Those that read this blog know that this is true. When I make nondepressed entries, I often see feedback that includes phrases akin to, "this post sounds much better," etc. To me, understanding that I am probably being selfish when I am like that gives me added incentive to not succumb to it. That is not to say that I am supressing it. Quite the contrary, I am spiritually exposing it for the thief it is. Depression steals my joy and the joy of others around me. What helps me deal with it is pouring myself more to the care of others during this time. It is akin to rejoicing, even in the time of dire straits. This is the principle that is taught in the Bible. The Apostle Paul demonstrated it while he sang in the prison in Philippi, for example.

This being stated, I don't disagree with you as far as your other statements (in principle, anyway). My main point is that if depression wasn't the epitome of selfishness, it wouldn't have such a horrible affect on the self or others around the depressed.

Thanks for your thoughtful feedback. I welcome it. I hope that we do not come to a mutual understanding of it, that we can still come to a friendly, "agree to disagree" state.

Michelle said...

Hi Jeff

Sorry to leave you waiting for a reply, I'm not getting much online spare time at the moment.

Yeah, i will agree we are on a simiarl wavelength with the caring in the news thing.

As for depression... I think I'm not keen on the word "selfish" because for most people it does take on too much emotional baggage. Not sure at this stage what word would work better and alas - I need to go sort out a cupboard! I'll be back if my brain gives me a decent answer. ;-)

Jeff said...

No, we don't like the word "selfish". Those of us who are or have been depressed can't stomach it. That is why my wife has such a problem with it. Self-examination is one of the most painful things that an individual can do. We certainly do not want to admit that we are selfish when we feel we can't help it. Yet, there it is. I am guilty.