Breaking Myths on Love and Altruism

It’s Valentine’s Day and love is the topic of the hour. But love is a very misunderstood and abused word. Many people commit crimes for “love.” Many myths abound on what “love” is, thanks in a big part to mass media and commercialism that muddle our ideas about it. There are also so many definitions of love, and the world gets upended because of it. There are so many problems caused by these sometimes conflicting understandings of love, especially the ones relating love with altruism. I’d like to put in my own discussion about it that is a sort of remake of my earlier personal blog post about it.

There are several kinds of love. I’ll use C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves definitions for this, since this is often used in western perspectives. On Valentines’ Day, most celebrate the romantic type, called in the Greek as Eros. It’s the kind of love whose goal is mainly sex. The filial love between brothers or comrades is Philia. Familial love is Storge. Last is Agape, the love that is often called the greatest, because it typifies concern for others and willingness to help them in their needs. It’s sometimes referred to as altruism.

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Altruism in an online Dictionary is defined as “the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others.” I have seen others define it as “pleasing others;” and this is wrong. It is possible to please others and not be concerned about their welfare or needs. Many times, pleasing others is done with ulterior motives; our politicians are good examples, giving donations or crying crocodile tears just for their own image, and not really for helping people. And of course, this is not limited to politicians; even ordinary people do it.

Altruism or the love that leads to helping others is based on looking after others’ needs. For example, when Christianity defines this as, “when I was naked, you clothed me, when I was sick, you visited me,” it is about people’s needs, not their wants. Feeding another person’s ego is not altruism. It is not “unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others.”

People love twisting the concept of altruism this way. They like to demand things from others, and if those things are not given, they may accuse others of not being altruistic. Using the wrong meaning, they demand that others please them, saying it is a “good act.” They could use that line, “hey, I need to be loved too.” But they actually mean that they may demand praises and flattery from others. Even if they are ugly, call them “beautiful,” and they call it a “white lie.” When others refuse to do it, they may launch into a tantrum and perhaps not only be angry with those who refuse to go with their game, but also try to ruin and slander them. It’s nothing more than emotional blackmail; or even moral blackmail.

Here’s where I can understand opponents of anti-bullying measures. Let’s say a vain, arrogant girl wants everyone in her class to call her beautiful. All except one do. The one may just disagree or simply say nothing, which some will assume as disagreement. The vain girl gets mad and accuses that one dissenter of bullying her. Some will say, “his refusal to acknowledge her beauty is an act of spite.” Really? That sure isn’t love.

That’s what I’ve been pointing out with the earlier article about beauty. There is a wrong sense of entitlement when someone demands being feted for who they are, and not what they do. Demanding to be feted is egoism. It leads to people becoming jerks and trying to manipulate others, which causes suffering.

Refusing other people the above has been made into a “wrong” by society, since this “offends” or “hurts” people. But it’s likely the result of a brat in power, who does not respect others’ refusal to cater to their whims. But we’re in times when societies are supposed to have moved on from sucking up to brats, thanks to more democratic institutions. So when people refuse to please someone who is wrong, they should not feel guilty or be made to feel guilty.

There is also this idea that it’s either you love or hate something. Filipinos tend to ignore this concept of middle ground. There is middle ground between love and hate, like and dislike. Non-recognition of this middle ground is also the premise behind the popular false dichotomy: either you’re with us or against us. Please me, you’re for me, or if not, you’re against me.

Another myth about love is the tendency to confuse liking and loving. The two words are often interchanged when referring to preference of things: I like this song, I love burgers, I like this painting, and so on. When it comes to people, however, a distinction must be made. Just as pleasing others doesn’t mean being altruistic towards them, neither is liking necessarily loving. Mere admiration of someone is not “love.”

There are some people who do wish to please others because they genuinely care about them. That’s fine. The problem is when someone abuses such love in a relationship; for example, the Filipina who insists that her foreigner husband give her and her 10 other relatives money all the time. The culture of dependence takes advantage of “love” to secure the mooching arrangement. The “love” here needs to be questioned and rethought.

A sound message that gets shared a lot these days

Perhaps the ultimate lesson here is, people need to chill. They should realize that the world was not made to please them. The less people insist on the world and other people pleasing them, the less they thump their own heads with such conflict-causing expectations.

While I do encourage opposing and challenging these social norms regarding the pleasing of other people, I do understand the difficulty involved. Breaking such myths and undoing practices based on them requires a consistent, ongoing effort involving a change of mindset and its consequential lifestyle. It also involves that vital ingredient: courage. Without the courage to make the changes, it would be harder. Yet, some people do have the courage to do so. It is much easier to do once the initiative gets become and grows into a collective effort to change the culture and behavior of people.

11 Replies to “Breaking Myths on Love and Altruism”

  1. “Love is never having to say you’re sorry”, a statement from an old movie. I believe that love and caring are almost the same.

    Young people mistakes love for the surge of their libidos. Eros is love with the ultimate result for sex, to procreate. Agape is love in the form of altruism, indeed. God love us, without reservation, as our faith teaches us….

    How would we describe : “forbidden love” ? Or how would a man with many wives; or a woman with many lovers, be described ? These things are not love; they are lust !

    “The love of money is the root of all evil”…a statement from the Christian Bible…

    So, our politicians and government officials, who are corrupt; and deal in illegal Shabu drug, have the “root of evil” in their hearts.

    In my conclusion for this Valentines Day : Love yourself, love your life, love your mate, love your God, whatever your belief is….for it is the only thing that last in your heart: your love.

    Never Lust for anything…it is evil…it is the root of all evil. Happy Valentines day to all !!!

  2. Nice to see a run of thoughtful articles lately.

    It always amazes me how the local culture manages to take so many inherently good ideas and turn them into something vile. The inversion of altruism into emotional blackmail is a classic case in point.

    >> They should realize that the world was not made to please them.
    In Western psychology, this has a name: narcissistic personality disorder. As a disorder it goes beyond mere vanity – it manifests as a sincere belief that the entire planet, including other humans, exists for no other purpose except to serve the narcissist. It’s rampant here.

  3. Mr. Hyden,
    I really have no idea how you will make love to your beloved girlfriend or wife but to do that you need an erection. You will only be able to get an erection based on lust/libido. Pls enlighten me how you think you will get an erection in your own words? No, I know you wont give me a detailed description.
    Furthermore, to not physically hurt and pain your partner while penetrating her, its really nice when her genital will get ‘wet’. How do you think she will get ‘wet’? Yes, again lust/libido.
    If and when you penetrate her while she is as dry as a cork you will hurt her big time. Ah, maybe you like pleasurable pain.

    Pls, Mr. Hyden pls read some biology books. Chapter human reproduction. Paragraph: what is required to have good sex.

  4. Dear Mr. Hyden,
    You still have a lot to learn.

    “Eros is love with the ultimate result for sex, to procreate.”

    In the West we discrimate between sex for procreation and sex because we love a person. I dont think you are a person who votes for ‘pro-life’, no, you vote for ‘pro-birth’ because you dont give a damn about the future of the child. For as long as there is no abortion.
    Now, why is it that many western european countries populations are decreasing? Because we are careful (yes, we care) about when we procreate and how often we procreate and how the future will be like for our future kids.

    So yes, we have sex a lot of more times than we procreate. Why? Because we love each other. And love itself doesnt mean that we have to fill those wombs all the time.

    Poverty (pro)creates poverty. That is a concept that you fail to see. You are in favor of filling wombs as often as possible regardless of the future of the child. Is that true and real love?

  5. @Robert Haighton:

    We are not talking about “Biology” here. We are talking about “Love” and altruism…

    The ancient Greeks have two words for “Love” : Eros and Agape (pronounced: a-ga-pe). In our time, we have only one word for Love…

    Lust is very different, from love. Lust is defined as intense and unbridled sexual desire…it is one of the seven deadly sins in the Roman Catholic Church dogma. Lust can also, be intense and unbridled desire for: money, power, prestige, fortune, fame, women, men, in between, children(pedophiles), etc…

    Love comes more from caring for your mate and your love ones, or whatever is true and good…
    Unless evil is your good !

    Don’t mistake love for lust…because they are very different…we don’t need also your porno blog, to ask for enlightenment ! Please, ask them in a nice way…I am a centrist…part liberal and part conservative …

    1. Hyden,
      in your very first comment you stated (amongst other things):
      “Eros is love with the ultimate result for sex to procreate.”
      Sex to procreate has nothing to do with love. That only has to do with pleasing your god. But you call that love (for you god).
      Pls read some medical reports about being pregnant and giving birth especially those who were pregnant many times. Its not fun for a woman, believe me. You may call that sacrifice. I just call that abuse of women. So pls read some other books beside the bible. It will be refreshing for your mind. Or is that also too enlightened for you?
      So, yes it is biology, my friend.

      I am not into porn blogs although pornography (online and in print, video) is very legal in my country as is prostitution..But that is outside the scope of this article.
      Enlightenment made the country I am living in now and today. Otherwise, we most likely would still be the same country as the Philippines (as an example) is still today.

      Making love (for me) is based on the love I have for my partner and can only be performed by libido (which equals lust for me).

      I really dont know how to translate liberal wih conservatism. Your beloved GRP author Santos states in his profile he is a modern conservatist. Both terms really go beyond me. But hey, I am not the smartest here.

  6. @Robert Haighton:

    I read books on Biology and other Natural Science . I read the Christian Bible also…I read other religious books, like :the Islamic Koran, the Jewish Torah, the Hindu : Baghavad Gita, etc…

    My faith is private to me. I respect your being an Agnostic…it is what you believe. Respect also what I believe.

    I stand for what I wrote earlier. If you disagree…so be it !

    1. Hyden,
      I am not an agnost. I am an atheist.
      Unlike what you ask from me: You dont have to respect my views and visions, so I will never ask you to.
      Respect is/has to be earned and deserved based on personal achievements.

  7. Chino,
    Most recently a pinay asked me to send (or to give) her the amount of PHP 2000. To cover a hospital bill that was needed for her son. She is still in hospital bec she cant pay that bill. The amount itself is peanuts to me. But what is the actual purpose if I cough up the money?

    The facts:
    – I am in no romantic relationship with that woman whatsoever
    – her son is not my son
    – the fact that her son needs hospital treatment is not because of my doing.
    – the biological father of the son doesnt take up his responsibility
    – the mother doesnt have a job.
    – beside her son, she has one more kid

    What I see here is a dysfunctional society at work. A woman who doesnt actually know the cause of why her boyfriend/husband left her (why? Because 2 people dont talk with each other and the woman cant be critical to her man. A woman has to be submissive and has to accept every behavior of her boyfriend/husband). The boyfriend/husband has now a new wife.

    Can I change all this by giving her the money? What good will it do? Next month she needs money again.
    So call me selfish if you will. But it needs to lead to something good and permanently.
    Altruism is a beautiful word but pls leave it at that, shall we.

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