Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.”

Martin Luther King Jr, Leader

Pros and Cons of Altruism

advantages and disadvantages of altruism

Altruism refers to behavior that aims to benefit other persons instead of yourself. For instance, you may want to do someone a favor just to make this person happy, independent of whether you get a personal advantage out of it or not.

Even though altruism has many important advantages, there are also some problems related to this concept. In this article, the pros and cons of altruism are discussed in detail.

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Advantages of Altruism

  1. Helping other people can make you happy
  2. Clean conscience
  3. Altruism may make the world a better place
  4. Feeling of community
  5. May reduce risk for poverty
  6. In line with human rights and values
  7. Can increase your overall acceptance in society
  8. Altruism may help you to find new friends
  9. Good for finding a partner
  10. Altruism can help to succeed in the corporate world
  11. Altruism is popular throughout nature
  12. Can increase our overall level of happiness
  13. Deeper connection with other people
  14. Overall trust in our society may increase
  15. Altruism leads to empathy
  16. Increase in life expectancy
  17. Important role model for your kids
  18. May help us to be more tolerant towards minorities
  19. You can profit in the long run

Helping other people can make you happy

One advantage of altruism is that you can make other people happy. This is quite an important aspect, yet many people in our nowadays society seem not to care about the feelings of others anymore.

Don’t be one of those guys! In my opinion, we are on this planet to make the world a little bit better and this also includes doing good for others from time to time.

Thus, the next time someone asks you for help, do him or her a favor, even if you will not directly benefit from it.

Clean conscience

Through practicing altruism, you may also be able to get a clean conscience. As we all know, depending on where we were borne, we have quite different chances of succeeding in life. For instance, if you are borne in a poor part of our world, you will often not have a chance to get out of poverty, even if you work hard for it every day.

In contrast, it is quite easy in our Western world to achieve reasonable levels of financial success. With this in mind, many of us have a bad conscience and feel guilty since we have it so much better in our rich Western world and by practicing altruism, for instance through donating money, you may get a cleaner conscience and your overall quality of life might increase due to that.

Altruism may make the world a better place

Another upside of altruism is that we might be able to make the world a better place. Billions of people on our planet do not have the chance to help themselves due to hunger, diseases or simply due to their age.

For instance, if you have a neighbor who is quite old and is no longer able to get to the grocery store, you may want to help your neighbor and get some food for him or her.

If everyone contributes his or her part, we can make the world a much better place in the long run.

Feeling of community

Altruism may also lead to a stronger feeling of community. In our current state of the world, everyone seems to be quite stressed and many people do not have time to take care of others anymore since they work in demanding jobs for quite long hours.

However, due to that, our overall feeling of community suffered a lot over the past decade and if we continue to live our lives in this manner, chances are that we will feel more like strangers than like a working community in the long run.

By doing good for others without expecting something in return, we can greatly improve our feeling of community and our overall quality of life may greatly improve due to that.

May reduce risk for poverty

Altruism may also greatly reduce the risk of poverty in our society. Quite often, retirees only have a small pension and will be barely able to get basic goods for their daily life. In some cases, pensioners may even no longer be able to pay their rent and may end up homeless in the streets.

Hence, if you own properties, you could act in an altruistic manner and keep the rent low, even though you know you could get more money. By acting in such an altruistic way, the risk for poverty and for the related serious effects could be reduced to a certain extent.

In line with human rights and values

Many of us also have an inner feeling that they have to give something back to the world. Especially if you are lucky enough to be borne in our Western world and have it rather easy to build success, you may feel so grateful that you want to give something back to society. Therefore, you may have an inner motivation to behave in an altruistic manner and to help other people as best as you can.

In general, altruism is a concept that can be considered to be in line with our human rights and values and therefore, it makes quite a lot of sense to promote this concept as best as we can.

Can increase your overall acceptance in society

Behaving in an altruistic manner can also greatly increase your overall acceptance in our society. For instance, if you have accumulated plenty of wealth over the course of your life, you may want to help to build a hospital, a school or other facilities that greatly benefit the general public.

By supporting those projects, your overall acceptance in society will improve since people will be quite grateful for what you did for them.

Altruism may help you to find new friends

In general, nobody wants to hang out with people who are quite selfish and self-centered. Hence, if you want to find new friends, chances are that you will be much more successful when you act in an altruistic rather than in a selfish manner.

And don’t make the mistake to pretend something that you are not. If you are currently not an altruistic person, you should work to become an altruistic person rather than to pretend to be such a person.

People will feel your intentions and if you just pretend you are doing good for others will you are in fact just acting selfish, people will punish you for that and your new friends will be gone quite soon.

Good for finding a partner

If you are currently searching for a significant other to start a family, altruism may also greatly help you in this regard since many people search for someone who is not just self-centered, but who also puts the needs of others before their own desires.

Hence, if you act in an altruistic manner, your chances to find a partner may also increase significantly.

Altruism can help to succeed in the corporate world

Even though it is sometimes necessary to be assertive in the corporate world, a certain level of altruism can also help you to succeed in your job. If you care about your colleagues and help them from time to time, chances are that you will be accepted inside your department and your chances for promotions may increase as well.

Altruism is popular throughout nature

Altruism is not a concept that is specific to humans. Also in nature, there are various forms of altruism around. For instance, a bee may sacrifice itself for the purpose of protecting their hive and their queen.

Therefore, altruism can also be considered as a concept that is deeply anchored in nature and thus, since our ancestors had been animals, it may also be quite natural that we adopt those altruistic characteristics into our lives.

Can increase our overall level of happiness

Doing good for others can also make us happy. Several studies have shown that people who do good for others will be much happier on average. Many people simply have the need to give something back to our society and therefore, they are much happier if they can help others by behaving in an altruistic manner.

Deeper connection with other people

People usually feel if you practice altruism or if you always want to get something in return. If you are really selfless and just want to help people, independent of whether you get something in return or not, people will feel that and will connect to you on a much deeper emotional level.

In fact, it is much easier to build up a trustful relationship with people if you are able to show them that you really want the best for them, not for you.

Overall trust in our society may increase

Many people in our society do no longer trust each other too much right now. This is partly due to the fact that people have learned to act in a purely selfish manner and that they do not care about others too much anymore. Hence, in order to restore the overall trust in our society, it is crucial that we start to act in an altruistic manner again.

Altruism leads to empathy

If you practice altruism, your overall level of empathy also tends to be significantly higher than if you just act in a selfish manner. Empathy is quite important for a working society since we can get a better understanding of the wishes and needs of people.

Only if we understand those needs as a society, we can make the changes that are necessary to improve the overall quality of life of many people all over the world.

Increase in life expectancy

Another benefit of altruism is that it can also significantly increase our overall life expectancy. On the one hand, if you behave in an altruistic manner, chances are that other people will live longer.

On the other hand, you may also live longer since you may have a higher level of emotional stability and studies have shown that people who have more social connections live longer on average.

Thus, through altruism, you may not only be able to increase the life expectancy of others, but you may also be able to increase your life expectancy as well.

Important role model for your kids

If you have kids, you should also try to teach altruism to your kids. If we teach our children from an early age how important it really is to act in an altruistic manner, those kids will be much more likely to behave altruistically once they turn into grownups and this is crucial in order to achieve a society in which people help each other.

May help us to be more tolerant towards minorities

Altruism may also help us to increase the level of tolerance towards minorities. Altruism means to help other people without expecting anything in return. Of course, this is also true towards minorities and by adopting altruistic behavior, chances are that minorities will be valued much more in our society and therefore, also their overall livability may improve significantly.

You can profit in the long run

Even though altruism means acting in a way that benefits others without expecting anything in return, there will be some automatic returns for you from behaving altruistically sooner or later.

People will notice if you do good for them and they will feel an inner motivation to pay you back sooner or later. Thus, altruism may also greatly benefit you in several different ways in the long run.

Disadvantages of Effective Altruism

  1. You may neglect your own needs and desires
  2. Altruism may lead to financial problems
  3. You may get exploited by false friends
  4. You get out of life what you tolerate
  5. Even good intentions may lead to bad outcomes
  6. Many people actually do not act selflessly
  7. Level of altruism may also depend on our genes
  8. Burnout
  9. Mental illness
  10. Unclear if true altruism even exists
  11. People may get lazy

You may neglect your own needs and desires

Apart from the many advantages of altruism, there are also some issues related to this concept. For instance, one problem of altruism is that you may neglect your own needs too much and may just aim to please everyone else around you.

Even though helping others is great and you should do it from time to time, you also have to learn that your own needs are important to be happy as well.

Thus, altruism may lead to significant problems if you take it too far and if you push your own needs aside all the time in order to help others.

Altruism may lead to financial problems

If you practice altruism in an extreme manner, you might also suffer from serious financial problems. For instance, altruism may lead to a state where you always have to pay for the bills of broke friends. If this is the case, you might run out of money sooner or later and may suffer from financial problems yourself.

However, chances are that your friends will be not such altruistic and may not help you at all, which may lead to serious trouble for you, especially in case you will no longer be able to pay your rent since you may end up homeless in the streets.

You may get exploited by false friends

In general, altruism can lead to a state where you attract many people that are actually not real friends but rather want to benefit from your financial resources. Some people are quite good at spotting opportunities to exploit others and therefore, make sure to take great care regarding whom you want to have around you in order to avoid getting exploited by false friends.

You get out of life what you tolerate

If you act too altruistic, many people around you will also take this as an opportunity to treat you like a pushover. Thus, even though altruism is generally a good thing, don’t take it too far and set boundaries in order to avoid being treated quite poorly by your friends or colleagues.

Even good intentions may lead to bad outcomes

Although you might have good intentions and act in an altruistic manner, you may still cause serious negative outcomes with your actions. For instance, imagine you want to help a drug addict and give him or her money to buy food, he or she may rather use this money to buy additional drugs and his or her condition may worsen over time.

Hence, even good intentions may turn out in bad outcomes from time to time.

Many people actually do not act selflessly

Another downside of altruism is that many people often pretend to act selfless, even though they are actually not acting selflessly at all. Most people expect something in return when they do good for you and you should pay close attention to whether people really behave altruistically or if they expect favors from you in return.

Level of altruism may also depend on our genes

Some studies also suggest that our level of altruism significantly depends on our genes. Therefore, even though you might have good intentions, your genes may prevent you from acting purely selfless and true altruism may be a concept you simply don’t understand since you are not borne with this kind of attitude towards life.

Burnout

If you push the concept of altruism too far in your daily life, you will also have a high chance to burn out sooner or later. In such a case, you will always hustle to please other people and to make their lives better.

Yet, you will stop caring about your own needs and over time, you will be quite exhausting and will have no power to help others and yourself anymore.

Thus, don’t push altruism too far and also put yourself first from time to time in order to avoid unpleasant consequences in the long run.

Mental illness

Altruism may also lead to serious mental problems. For instance, you might have been taught your whole life that it is good to help others. While this is certainly true, many people will also take advantage of this attitude and over time, you will realize that many people whom you have considered to be friends are actually just exploiting you.

When you realize that, your worldview may collapse and many people can’t deal with this, which in turn may lead to mental illness of some sort.

Unclear if true altruism even exists

Critics of the concept of altruism also often claim that true altruism doesn’t even exist in our society at all. While many people claim that they are altruists, they may subconsciously still expect something in return when they do someone a favor.

Hence, true altruism may no even exist since we might subconsciously always expect something in return and the whole concept might be flawed due to that.

People may get lazy

If people learn that they get help from others every time they need it, this may also lead to a state where people get lazy and unmotivated. Some people may lose their drive to achieve things in life since they know that someone will be there to fix their problems in an altruistic state of the world. Thus, too much altruism may also lead to flawed incentives for people in our society.

Top 10 Altruism Pros & Cons – Summary List

Altruism ProsAltruism Cons
Altruism may lead to a better worldPeople may exploit you
Helping people may make you happyAltruism can lead to financial problems
Cleaner conscienceYou may neglect your own needs
Altruism may help you finding friendsMental problems
Helpful for your careerMay contribute to laziness of people
Deeper connections to peopleYou may burn out
People may want to give you something backFalse friends
Higher level of tolerance in our societyGood intentions may lead to bad outcomes
Altruism is also present in natureNot yet clear if altruism truly exists
May help to find a partnerYou may be considered as weak

Should You Practice Altruism?

Altruism is quite an interesting concept and there are many advantages and disadvantages related to it.

In my opinion, we should all act in an altruistic manner so that we achieve a higher level of respect and empathy in our society.

At the same time, you should still put yourself first from time to time in order to avoid getting exploited by others.

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Altruism

https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/basics/altruism

https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-altruism-2794828

https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/altruism/

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.

As I went to university and got my Master’s degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.

After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.

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