Long ago, perhaps longer ago than I realize, there was an episode of Friends in which Phoebe (I think) argued there’s no such thing as a truly selfless act. Her reasoning, in part, was that even the things we think of as generally selfless, we do to make ourselves feel good.
I was thinking about this just now in relation to one of my Life Philosophies:
When you see someone doing well, doing right, or doing good, tell them, tell their boss, and tell a friend.
It’s one thing to tell someone you’ve noticed their good work or good deeds. It’s another step beyond that, though, to tell other people about that person’s good work or good deeds. Praising someone to an important person in that person’s life makes everyone feel good.
That’s where I started thinking about Phoebe and selfless acts. When I praise someone to his/her boss, am I doing so for that person’s benefit, or am I doing so because it makes me look good that I’m going around praising people? I get a huge rush of happiness from seeing how much people appreciate knowing that their work has not gone unnoticed. Am I praising people for my own rush of happiness, more than for theirs?
Then I thought, if my praise is sincere, does it really matter?
I know how good it makes me feel when someone praises me. And I know the surge of pride and joy when someone praises me to people who matter to me. There are more than enough negative forces in the world. Any positive energy that is put out there is good energy, in my opinion. If pointing out the good someone else has done makes me feel good in the process, then that’s just the price I’ll have to pay. A very good price it is.
So, off I go. The Monday instructor of a gym class I’m taking is doing a fantastic job, and I think his boss needs to know. I hope some of you will be inspired to spread some praise, as well.