The motivation to help others can spring from multiple thought processes, such as a desire to improve your overall lifestyle, simply achieving that “feel-good” factor, or even wanting to declare your social status through wealthy donations. The question is though, at the end of the day, why do we truly give to charity? Does giving to a charity make you happier, is it that happier people give more, or is it something else?
Modern culture and free-thinking attitudes
Current science at play shows that we naturally want to help others, and that giving makes you happier in general. That warm, fuzzy feeling is your body responding positively to your actions. This particular human trait, at its most basic yet most fundamental, is an ideology that goes back as far as ancient Greece — to the concept of eudaimonia (human flourishing).
Eudaimonia can be broken down into two differing viewpoints. The first is understanding that human virtue (let’s say, the act of giving to charity) is a prerequisite for people to flourish, to become better, yet acknowledges how external factors such as personal wealth and love can have a positive impact on happiness. The second view is that happiness should be achieved by human virtue alone — a difficult belief in modern times, perhaps.
Current theories suggest that the more happy you are, the more you give to charity. However, further research suggests that there is a growing age gap between those who give to charity the most: over 60s are twice as likely to give than any other demographic. So, are we a less-generous generation than those before us? Are we just less happy? Or is being “a good person” no longer enough to be happy?
Well, if we put forward the concept of eudaimonia as a possible way of living your life, the reasons for people being happy aren’t exactly prominent on the surface of things — you only have to watch the news to believe that. However, when you really think about it, the concept of “you must have this in your life to be happy” is rather subjective — to the point where it doesn’t really mean anything because what you constitute as success can be completely different to somebody else. The same can be said of love, security, and happiness itself — these are constantly evolving ideals and not static notions. It’s impossible to gauge what constitutes happiness because people have personal viewpoints, and this includes why you give to charity.
Why humanity is brilliant
Britain, as a charitable nation is testament to that free-thinking mindset. Since the devastating recession in 2008, in the face of economic collapse, rising interest rates, unpayable bills, and uncertain futures for charities, the one thing the British public have held fast in is giving to charity. In, 2014/15 Marie Curie were able to provide care for 40,712 people with terminal illnesses, as well as their families. It’s an amazing fact that although times are hard, we still give to others.
Today, it feels as though we don’t give because we are happy, we give because we emotionally react to a situation — we have something to connect to and to follow, whether good or bad.
So, this brings us to the question of why do we really give to charity? In modern culture, people don’t give to charity just because they’re happy, although that is still a fair enough reason. People give because they have the ability to see the world around them. They see countries devastated by nature, disease, and corruption, and seeing cancer tear through a family emotionally impacts us. It’s this understanding that leads to giving. People want to help, we know this, but they give more because they can see its benefit. This isn’t giving necessarily because you are happy, this is giving because helping your fellow man is an ultimate cause — and that is a huge difference. We have flourished to the point where negative feelings can lead to self-improvement just as much as positive feelings. That’s incredible growth.
The purpose of giving to charity is not self-satisfaction, its purpose is to help those in need. This is something the British public, and indeed the rest of the world, are acutely aware of. It’s why annual events such as Marie Curie’s Great Daffodil Appeal are exceptional human reactions to helping those in need. They let us see exactly how we can help by giving, and the benefits of what we give — and long may this continue.
Featured photo credit: Faces Helped By Charity: Water via flickr.com