There is a common cultural misconception about the meaning of altruism; not that there is a problem with it per se, but more with regard to where altruism comes from. Most definitions state that altruism represents “selfless” devotion or concern for the well being of others. But can anything really be totally “selfless”?
I would argue not.
Altruism is actually an outcome of boundary development, and boundary development is an outcome of values clarification. And values clarification can lead to a missional lifestyle. So when a missional lifestyle also happens to be focused on helping others – with or without any obvious personal gain – we are really talking about someone who demonstrates personal integrity; we are talking about someone who “walks the talk”. And that represents a lot more than selfless behavior – it represents a fusion of true self with mission – a philosophically based Purpose.
Conversely, in the absence of a well-developed boundary due to murky values or shifting socially-influenced priorities, the helping of others may be driven by an attempt to serve ourselves…possibly even a neurotic attempt to feel better about ourselves…a superficial kabuki theatre hidden behind our personal insecurity.
This is WHY Values clarification, and WHY spending time clarifying our mission…is so central in the creation of a truly patient-centered practice, where the sincere agenda is to help others grow and become more of what they are capable of becoming physically, emotionally, and even spiritually (how we feel about ourselves directly influences our spiritual life).
The end of the year is a traditional time to look backwards and forwards, and this should be done with our team as well. What were our behaviors patterns? Were they in alignment with our mission? Hence, did our Care Team and therefore practice, routinely demonstrate integrity?
And was our behavior, and will our behavior be truly altruistic?
Paul A Henny, DDS
Thought Experiments LLC, ©2017
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