The Role of Ego in Humanitarianism

Bill Gates must be the epitome of the modern individualistic man turning into a through-and-through humanitarian. When contrasted with someone like Mother Teresa, judgments regarding which form of philanthropy is the better one surface automatically. In practical terms, Bill Gates has helped improve more downtrodden lives using his enormous personal wealth; nevertheless, there is an appreciation for the self-sacrifice of Mother Teresa and how her humanitarian spirit stamped an indelible universal belief in the goodness of human beings that make her rise above any practical considerations. Most would agree, though, that any kind of humanitarian effort is better than none.

There exists, quite abundantly, the form of philanthropy where people contribute to charitable causes to feel better about themselves – subconsciously, of course. These are people who want the world to know about their good deeds. Philanthropy reinforces their beliefs in their own goodness, which can turn some into lifelong philanthropists. However, just because there is a selfish component to their humanitarianism does not mean that there are no genuinely humanitarian elements in their form of philanthropy. Moreover, the contributions of these philanthropists often make it possible for others to dedicate their lives to humanitarian causes without selfish motives. Here is a form of philanthropy, while not ideal, nonetheless, does prove useful.

In truth, in today’s world, where minds are oriented from an early age towards materialism and power, it is rare to find a humanitarian without at least some selfish motives, no matter how deeply hidden in the subconscious – be it having pride in one’s accomplishments, wishing to spread one’s message, or feeling a sense of superiority through self-righteousness. Most of popular history revolves around the accomplishments of individual figures much more than collective accomplishments. In light of this, I believe that, in this world that worships individuals, ego and individuality play a prominent role in actions of virtually every person, including actions that are humanitarian in nature.

This is when the practical approach to humanitarianism becomes relevant. As you most likely cannot fully defeat your ego in your quest to become a completely self-sacrificing saint, as is only expected, it is best to channel your ego towards humanitarian goals, given that you are aware of what you are doing. If your ego motivates you to become a great speaker and spread the message of humanitarianism that would influence others to become humanitarian, then, by all means, use that drive that the ego provides, while always being aware that you are deliberately using your ego to promote and progress humanitarian efforts and not as a means to overinflate your ego or to fulfil other selfish purposes.

As long as you do not overindulge your ego, there is nothing wrong in feeling good about yourself when helping others, especially if you know that this feeling will motivate you to help even more. A happy humanitarian in control of his or her ego can do more than one plagued by an eternal struggle to defeat the ego. When you are trying to improve the world and make everyone in it happier, don’t forget about yourself as you are also a part of that world.Image

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About fliqside

This blog is called back to evolution because it is partly influenced by evolutionary psychology as a tool to explain human behavior in the modern world. It is also influenced by the belief that nothing should be taken at face value and everything should be challenged. Most importantly, it is inspired by the possibility of understanding the human psyche in order to promote the well-being of our global community as a whole. - Hridesh Gajurel
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2 Responses to The Role of Ego in Humanitarianism

  1. Birbhadra Acharya says:

    You have written a very good article on the humanitarian aid and the role of ego. I like it. Your thoughts are well taken. These days I am very much concerned about people saying “YOU SHOULD SHED YOUR EGO” to perfect yourself or to be a saint. I say, what is the use of saints if they he do not have ego. Ego is the very substance that binds us to the physical world. Once ego is lost, the person do not exists. Ego prompts the saints to do good deeds. As I understand, ego prompts oneself to assert his or her individuality. Therefore, I define ego as “me and myself”. How can a person survive if (s)/he cannot assert their individuality. I think there is a common mis-belief that when we talk about ego, it must be negative. What I liked about your article is that you are talking about positive ego. Mother Teresa would not have accomplished so much without an ego, or without asserting herself. Same is the case for Bill Gates or any other philanthropists for that matter. Siddartha Gautam was the most prominent egoist in the sense that he wanted the world to know what he learned. In my opinion his ego prompted him to make such a great sacrifice and help people. And if Siddartha Gautam had not spread his knowledge, he would not have become a Buddha. His ego was essential for being a Buddha.
    Therefore, as you pointed in your article, foster your positive ego and help the world instead of shedding your ego. The Hindus teaches to have total “sama bhab” or equanimity towards all human and creature. That is also being egoless. In my opinion that is not possible for a person to be, because selfishness (in positive sense) is the inherent nature of all being and without being selfish human would not have survived in the evolutionary process.

  2. Pingback: The Secret Deciphered: Part Two | Melanie's Life Online

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