Since Darwin, biologists, psychologists and other professionals have slowly come to the conclusion that all human traits are based on self-interest. That is, we do things mainly because of the benefits we expect to receive as this ensures that we are more likely to survive and pass on our genetic legacy. Self-interest, then, is the main driving psychological force behind human behaviour. In fact, human self-interest has helped capitalism flourish and become the dominant economic model for the planet.
One of the problems with this model of human behaviour is that is does not easily account for what parents do for their children. When they’re sick, we wipe their noses. When they need their shoes tied, we tie them, and when they feel disappointed, we hug and console them. What’s in it for us!?¬† The answer is – nothing that we can count on. Young kids, in particular, will never remember the sacrifices we have made. We give because it is the right thing to do. We give because we love them. Period. Not for self-interest, not for what we hope to gain in the near or distant future. Giving in this way reminds us to be thankful for what we have. Our thankfulness leads to expressions of love and caring. We give because we are thankful. We are thankful because we appreciate what the world or the gods have bestowed on us – not because of what we can get.
Margaret Visser has a new book called “The Gift of Thanks”. In it she talks about the history of thankfulness and how important it is for us to re-discover our understanding of this important way of being – particularly in the face of a exploited planet in peril.
What have your experiences been with respect to giving and being thankful for your kids, parents, family, and friends? Leave us a comment!