Making people the objects of your selfish charity

In the thirteenth century, the word bad was first coined to describe something that was inferior in quality, wicked, evil or vicious. 

Seven hundred years later, a certain moonwalker’s bestselling album reversed the meaning of the word. 

Jackson turned bad into good. He made bad the special sauce of hip hop sexiness and outsider cool. Not to mention, skin tight pants, buckle jackets, studded gold belts and leather straps. That’s bad. 

What’s fascinating, though, the language can also work in reverse. Good can degenerate into bad. It all depends on the intention of the person behind it. 

Palmer’s framework for spiritual caring states it well. 

Forced goodness can turn subjects into objects, and when it’s imposed on people who have no desire for it, those people become the victims of somebody else’s selfish charity. Because in many cases, good is just another alleged savior indulging in some fantasy that has nothing to do with other people. 

And that’s bad. Because it’s just a performance. The person is playing a role. Upholding the stereotype that human beings are bundles of energy programmed to pursue selfish ends. 

Which isn’t to rule out the importance of proper selfishness, meaning, having a sense of responsibility for yourself and enough confidence to believe that you can get what you want in life. 

But let’s not bullshit ourselves. 

When supposed goodness is nothing more than cleverly packaged selfishness, it’s bad. When generosity only happens when people are watching, it doesn’t count. And when you’re only giving people the gifts you think are good for them, it’s all about you. 

And that’s bad

Ultimately, the only truly good acts are the ones that allow people the freedom to choose their own destinies. 

Not the ones filling a need that doesn’t exist. 


Does your forced goodness turn subjects into objects?

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Scott Ginsberg

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