I am a quick, well-organised person by nature and often finish tasks before other people. That’s nearly always the case when I go horse riding. I groom and prepare my horse energetically without wasting any time. When I turn round, I realise that my friends are lagging behind. So I help them put on a bridle, tighten a girth, clean hooves or untangle a mane.
People thank me profusely for my kindness, when in fact I haven’t done it out of altruism but because I’m impatient to start riding!
I don’t think I’m altruistic at all, but if my friends see it that way, does that mean I am, or does the sense of well-being that I get out of it disqualify me from being thought of as such?
It’s an interesting, but somewhat pointless, debate. Haven’t we all been thanked for actions that originated from a selfish intent?
Aren’t the results what count more than anything?
When was the last time that you were selfishly altruistic?
One day someone came up to the great philosopher and said to him:
“Do you know what I just found out about your friend?”
– “Just a minute,” replied Socrates. “Before you tell me, I’d like to set you a test. The three sieves’ test. Before you tell me all sorts about other people, it’s a good idea to take the time to filter what you want to say. That’s what I call the three sieves’ test. The first sieve is truth. Have you checked that what you want to tell me is true?”
– “No, I’ve only just heard about it…”
– “Right, so you don’t know whether it’s true. Let’s try the second sieve, kindness. Is what you want to tell me about my friend something good?”
– “Oh no! Quite the opposite.”
– “So,” continued Socrates, “you want to tell me bad things about him and you’re not even sure that they are true. There’s one sieve left, usefulness.
– Is what you want to tell me about my friend of any use?”
– “No, not really.”
“So,” said Socrates in conclusion, “if what you want to tell me is neither true, good nor useful, why do you want to tell me?”
What about you? Do you use Socrates’ three sieves?