PART VI ...AND EM­BRACES PURE AL­TRU­ISM

Men's Health (UK) - - Are You Really A Good Person? -

As the month draws to an end, I watch the bul­lies be­come less mean and the sore losers de­velop a lit­tle more grace. I won­der if they’ll turn back into lit­tle bas­tards, but I’m in­vested, more than I’d ever been. My own be­hav­iour has changed, too. Some mod­i­fi­ca­tions are more mean­ing­ful than oth­ers. I swear less. I’ve in­creased my con­tri­bu­tions to char­ity. And I’ve got an open in­vi­ta­tion to re­turn to the school.

I’ve also been nicer around my wife. One evening, I take her out to a restau­rant. “I’m lucky to have you,” I tell her, hav­ing been care­ful not to mansplain the tiramisu. “You’re a great mother. I love you. And you look great in that dress.” She eyes me sus­pi­ciously. “This is an old dress,” she says. “You look great,” I re­peat. “Are you still be­ing nice for that ar­ti­cle?” “I’m fin­ished.” “Then stop be­ing nice.” But I can’t. True self­less­ness is hard. Even the Je­suits don’t ex­pect per­fec­tion. Marsh tells me that we use our own life ex­pe­ri­ences to in­fer ev­ery­one else’s mo­ti­va­tions. This is called “ego­cen­tric bias”: “If we sus­pect that other peo­ple don’t be­lieve in the pos­si­bil­ity of true al­tru­ism,” she says, “this is prob­a­bly re­lated to our own dis­po­si­tion.”

In short, if we are all nicer, ev­ery­one ben­e­fits. We can live longer, hap­pier and health­ier lives, with­out hav­ing to de­vote our­selves to slav­ish good­ness. I re­solve to vol­un­teer at the school again when the next term starts. Which should still give me plenty of time for a surf­ing hol­i­day.

IN­DI­VID­UAL GOOD­NESS CRE­ATES A FEED­BACK LOOP…

BOTH GEN­EROS­ITY AND COM­PET­I­TIVE­NESS ARE HARD-WIRED – AND CAN CO­EX­IST

…THAT NORMALISES SELF­LESS­NESS, SO WE ALL BEN­E­FIT

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