The “Golden Rule.”
This phrase is passed on from generation to generation as a means of providing morality. Since most of the recipients have a sense of empathy, the message is generally well received. Morality is our set of guidelines on how to live, and what is right and wrong. For the majority of my life, I have abided by this golden rule: treat others how you want to be treated. For example, don’t break into someone’s house and steal their possessions (unless you want someone to do that to you). There are many messages that can be drawn from this rule, but there are three main conclusions: don’t treat others badly unless you want to be treated badly, if you put nothing in, then you will get nothing out, and if you are kind and grateful, then others will be the same in return.
I’m choosing to start with the negative because to me, this argument is the most basic- even though it can have the largest consequences if not followed. It seems fairly simple, don’t steal, harm others, etc or bad things will come to you. Many people, however, believe that they are inherently special and that they can avoid the consequences of their bad actions. If you treat others badly, then you were either treated badly, or you will get what is coming to you, and others will treat you how you’ve treated others. This may seem like a fairly abstract concept, but the golden rule wouldn’t be the golden rule unless many people believed in it. Essentially, the most commonly drawn conclusion from the golden rule is don’t treat others badly unless you want the same to happen to you.
Another conclusion from the golden rule is what you put in is what you get out. Essentially, the more effort you put into a relationship, the more you get out of it. If you want to be truly cared about, then you have to care about others. This also ties into the third conclusion, which suggests that being kind brings kindness. I believe that herein lies the difference between a genuine desire to help others and helping others to help yourself: altruism vs egoism. I do not believe that people are pure altruists or egoists, simply because all people do things for themselves and for others. Rather than confining people in the binary of altruism or egoism, I believe there is more space in-between where all people lie. It is the degree of altruism and egoism that makes a difference. I do not mean to say that people can not commit altruistic acts, and the same for egoistic acts, but I do not believe that one action can define a person.
Essentially, almost all people will prioritize themselves at some point and others at another points, but it is the degree to which they do so that makes a difference. This is where the altruism vs. egoism debate ties back into the golden rule: if you truly care about others, then others will truly care about you. You may still care about yourself more than others, but as long as the degree to which you prioritize yourself over others is not too skewed, then who’s to say you’re not an altruist?