Why You Should Not Help Others

To lift a puppy from a tough fall can pull the corners of our mouth, cheek to cheek. That says a lot about the meaningfulness of helping others, it says to help is a wonderful experience. No matter the person, at one moment or another, help can be exactly what is needed to endure a terrible burden. But as with many things, that which is good can at times be bad.

We all love to awake to the sun, as the sun fills us with joy and happiness. The sun is one wonderful thing we get to experience each morning. However, those with sun burns from sleeping outdoors are filled, markedly so, with less joy and happiness when they awake.

We all love to socialize, for socializing can put us at ease and help us enjoy life; but when we socialize with toxic people, our social life becomes a bed of soil from which dysfunction sprouts.

Undesirable outcomes can come from desirable affairs. Some things can be well intended yet have negative consequences. What we enjoy in the moment can bring us misery in the future.

Truer words could not be spoken about the nature of helping. We too frequently and so naively take helping to be intrinsically good; we seldom view helping as either negative or to  be avoided.

Help, despite our common intuitions, ought to be avoided at times; just as roses have both beauty and danger, so too does help offer us both beauty and danger. Help can truly bring good to the world, or help can bring vanity, distraction, delusion, and other neurotic affairs.

Anxious Help

When a parent watches their children learn something for the first time, a sense of yearning to help washes over them. They feel an urge to help the children in the learning process. But that help can become overly anxious or obsessive quite easily.

Suppose a child wants to learn to draw. Here, the child will require pencils, rulers, and sharpeners; all of which are sharp and full of potential to harm the child, so an anxious parent endlessly thinks.

As a consequence of such anxious thoughts, the anxious parent continuously interrupts the child to ensure no harm is done. Whenever a pencil breaks, or a straight line must be drawn, the parent immediately intervenes and interrupts the learning and fun; only to keep safe their fragile child.

Of course, the extreme anxiousness effectively smothers the child and makes the ordeal of learning how to draw an annoyance at best. No child wants anxious help, just as no adult wants anxious help either.

Vanity and Help

Help for some is more akin to public relations advice rather than moral action. People will offer their help to those who are less fortunate, but in return expect positive social regard. If positive social regard cannot be had, then no help shall be given.

Take, for example, those who brag about how much money they have given to charity, or those who routinely mention how much blood they have donated. Such helpers care less about who they help and more about the perception others have of them as “helpers”. So long as others can see the virtuous behaviour they engage in, little else matters.

Aimless Help

Another form of help which does little for anyone is aimless help. Some people avoid progress, and therefore the difficulties which come with progress. They do so by spending countless hours helping others; they are aimless in their own lives because they never direct themselves inward.

To deal with other people and their problems can be an easier route than dealing with our own problems. For the internal turmoil associated with the problem is elsewhere; we don’t endure the first-person experiences wedded to the problem. That makes other peoples problems a tempting justification to ignore our own.

Put otherwise: “how can I help myself when there are so many people who I must help?”. Such a belief can establish a crusade against the problems of the world while likewise appearing selfless and heroic.

Of course, the opposite is in fact the case. Such a person does nothing more than run from their own problems. They are not only delusional about themselves, but they are likewise timid and greedy. To use someone else’s genuine problem as a way to avoid your own internal turmoil is quite a questionable thing to do.

Why We Shouldn’t Help Others

We should never help others when our reasons for doing so are terrible, like those listed above. To help someone out of anxiousness seldom results in help. Much rather, doing so will lead to someone being smothered and annoyed. Likewise, we should never seek to help someone as a means to improve our own social status, doing so just makes us more vain than before. And lastly, we ought to avoid helping everyone else as a means to avoid our own responsibilities.

These reasons and many others are terrible reasons to help others. Rather than contribute to overall wellness of the world, they take from the wellness of the world. For even if these crummy forms of help lead to other people benefiting, they damage the quality of our own character.

Helping is not always a good thing, and we should be aware of that fact. Only then can we assess whether our offers to help are from genuine motivations or not; and therefore, whether our help is truly beneficial or not.

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Ideasinhat is a business development analyst and longtime reader of academic literature. He writes books and essays on science and philosophy, and posts them to this website. The essays, as with the books, cover topics from psychology, philosophy, and cognitive science to economics, politics, and law.

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