“Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.” -Henry David Thoreau
An old friend of mine used to say she hated when people pushed their causes on her. She saw this as pestering and judgment–that she somehow wasn’t good enough because she ate meat, or didn’t help preserve endangered species, or didn’t send money to starving children in third-world countries.
She later told me that she felt disconnected from it all because she hadn’t found something that really moved her personally. Whenever someone told her about a fundraiser, she realized that she didn’t have an intrinsic motivation to offer her support, other than wanting to look good.
She wanted to make a positive difference in the world, but she felt so overwhelmed by the things that mattered to everyone else that she had a hard time identifying what mattered to her.
It made a lot of sense to me. While there’s something to be said for selfless giving, we’re more apt to make a consistent positive difference, whether through charity or work, if we discover what moves us and then let that lead the way. Then it’s not just about supporting a cause–it’s about having a cause to do it.
We all need to stand for something. We need to understand how we fit into the larger picture and how we can leave the world a better place than we found it. We need to feel that we can make a difference–that there’s something we can create, change, or improve to help other people.
Studies show that a sense of purpose is one of the strongest indicators of happiness. It’s not only beneficial to others; it’s also essential to our well-being that we find a way to give back. But we need to find it for ourselves–not because we should, or we want to look good, but because we genuinely care.
For me that cause is helping people let go of their pain. It matters to me deeply because I know firsthand how life can pass by when you hold onto the past. What do you stand for–and why?
Photo by bencrowe