I wrote before about people who believe they should do something about the evil in the world. They hear about oppression or famine in another part of the world, they want to do something about it. They wish they could go over and probably give food to the poor, or give an abusive government or this sick terrorist group a piece of their mind. But they can’t.
I once had this attitude. If you want to do good in the world, go out and look for someone to help. At times, you’re encouraged (or even goaded) to “do something special for the world.” Get a beggar from off the street, bring them to a shelter, or feed a lot of homeless kids. Something big and grand to earn “points in heaven.” Some thought of doing some “labor activism.” But what if you can’t? You’ll feel guilty and think you’re a bad person for not helping the world. While quite normal reactions at first, entertaining these feelings repeatedly and over a long time is actually more harmful than helpful.
First, one must question why they want to “help.” Do they want to really make an impact on the world? Or do you just want to feel better about yourself? No matter how nice it sounds, the latter is actually selfish. There’s nothing wrong with trying to feel better, but helping others just for your own feelings doesn’t seem honest. And it’s possible to help others without being sincere about it. Politicians of course do it all the time, indulging in charity (hand-outs) projects to build their name. And as for impact, perhaps one must step back and check how much impact they actually have on the world.
Some other people, especially SJWs (social justice warriors) are very vocal about wanting to help people. Sometimes, their definition of “help” is twisted. They believe that attacking someone whose opinion offends another is “help.” But it isn’t. They sometimes also want to force other people to help. Then if such people are not helping (according to their idea of helping, that it), they attack those people. Apparently, it is not justice, but crab mentality.
Such guilt-driven people are probably venting their anger at other people because they are angry at themselves. They don’t want to accept they’ve failed; they’re too proud to admit they couldn’t do something they shouldn’t. And since they’re too proud to be angry at themselves, so they divert it to the world.
Another thing is the Internet. It’s full of viral videos showing disasters or even people being asses. Being unable to do anything about what you see on it makes one feel helpless, miserable and guilty. This is why it is something one should turn off from.
Such people also emotionally invest on something they have no control over. That is damaging to the psyche. In the end, they will look for control over that thing, but will never get it. It’s like taking a hammer and hitting oneself on the head over and over with it.
The counterpoint is that we should accept that we don’t need to help. There are times being unable to help is all right. Help only when you need to, and can. I’m not a fan of doing good aimlessly. It’s better to do it for a purpose. And people who “don’t help” are not cold, heartless, uncaring, desensitized and cruel. They just accept their limits.
If you have heard of the advice, stop worrying, then stop worrying about not helping. Worrying is a significant source of stress and a leading factor in the declining health of people in today’s times. This is why SJWs and similar can be considered as having unhealthy lifestyles. Unless they’re rich enough to go over to that third world country and do something, it’s useless to worry.
There are some people who do something, and participate in or create programs to help people in other places. Such people with the wealth and connections are rare, and many of us are not like them. And we don’t need to be. And then there are some that, if they do go over, and start a “revolution,” helping insurgencies. Or even some small idiotic destructive “protest” actions such as destroying a rice field. Then they’re terrorists and are not helping at all.
Feeling guilty doesn’t mean you are actually guilty. It is only a frustration of not being able to have control. You want the world to manifest your notion of “beauty,” and if it doesn’t, you are either depressed or offended. You want something that you can’t have – and should not.
Perhaps we could also trace some of this to the older generation. There are some “old-fashioned,” piety-obsessed parents who probably order their children to give to the poor, not really to teach them to be be more charitable, but to boast about their children’s achievement. Or there is that usual dinner table sermon: “There are so many hungry children around the world, so finish up everything!” It boggled me then because, as I see it, finishing your food does not help those hungry children. It also seemed to me like unnecessary guilt-tripping, and more like the parents hate it when what they spent on the food gets wasted. Some children mistakenly take this to mean, “feed the hungry children around the world!” But of course, they can’t and unnecessary guilt gets built up.
Another example is people believing others are not doing “enough good,” so they think of giving them burdens just to make them “good.” For example, making someone move your wheelbarrow or mow across your yard for no reason at all. The reason you might say, better make them busy with such things to keep them from doing wrong. I doubt that works. Then there are the types who believe it is good to make other people sacrifice, so they’ll take your electric fan and say, “hey, you’re doing a sacrifice by enduring the heat anyway.” There are those annoying people who assume you are doing nothing, or hate it that you are comfortable in your house doing your hobbies, so they want you to go out and give out your stuff to other people or else they’d badmouth you as a stingy person. They’re like the Pharisees in the Bible – inventing burdens to make a pretentious show of making other people “good,” but are actually doing it for their own vainglory and control-freakness.
We don’t like feeling like another brick in the wall waiting for it to change, so we try to help. But just helping for its own wake won’t work; it’s better to identify where the need is and identify the right action for it. Just trying to help without knowing how to help can do harm than good too. For example, if you want to help someone who just broke a leg or arm, can you properly apply first aid to them? If not, you might pull the limb further and make things worse. This can be an analogy for many other situations in life.
At times, being the change you want to be is the best and only thing some people can do. Getting rid of that false sense of control and learning to accept that help should not always be given is a big step in preserving sanity. Let us also be careful against having sympathy for those who don’t deserve it. For example, in a book I’m reading, a pastor described a time he gave money to a woman with a baby, because she begged for it with the reason of feeding her baby. On a hunch, he decided to follow the woman without her knowing, and found that she used the money to buy liquor. So he concluded, better to help using the right way, not the way people insist on how they should be helped.
Also, pay no attention to the guilt trippers and holier-than-thou types of people, even those who say, you’ll go to hell if you don’t help people. Unnecessary feelings of guilt can weigh you down and inhibit you from doing something useful. As the saying goes, it’s difficult to love and help others if you don’t know how to love and help yourself. And that is why you also don’t need to help all the time: because people have to learn to help themselves.