(Distinctions are subtleties of language that, when gotten, cause a shift in a belief, behavior, value or attitude.)
This distinction will take some thought because it may fly in the face of some beliefs you have.
To be altruistic is thought to be a wonderful thing. An altruist is someone who serves others. The literal philosophical meaning is: placing others above self.
And that s the problem. One must, by this definition, make the welfare of others his or her primary concern. The essence of the concept is self-sacrifice. In other words, your self has no value, only theirs. But someone who does not value their own existence cannot then truly see value in another. They have invalidated “human being.”
Benevolence, good will, and the respect for the rights of others springs from the belief that a human being, all human beings, have great value, even supreme value. If you value yourself, you are then at choice as to how you share that value with others — you get to be benevolent, there is no “should.” Good will toward, and contribution to, others are easy by-products of this view.
Coaching Point: How have you seen your own value lately?
How have you been benevolent?
Copyright 2005 Steve Straus. All rights reserved.