Are there true altruistic acts? Do we ever give only for the sake of the other person without a thought that we might benefit from our charitable actions? The Christian Bible says we should not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing [Matt 6:3], meaning that we do not show our charitable acts in the open. But even here the religious hope for a reward from God. But is this such a bad thing?
Relationships with other people tend to be a good thing. There is a blurred line between giving to the other person and giving to the relationship. When we give in this situation we may benefit the relationship, and therefore benefit ourselves. Nothing wrong with mutual benefit. Of course, there are dysfunctional relationship, and there are misguided attempts to help. But mutually beneficial relationships are possible, and probably essential for social life.
But what about when the other person whom we help cannot return the favour, or even respond? Is this a pure altruistic acts? Is there no benefit to the giving person?
Both research and general ‘old wives tale’ wisdom strongly suggests that people who are kind will live longer and enjoy better health, and even the health problems that they do have seem to worry them less than we might expect. By taking the focus away from just themselves and focusing on how they are part of a community of people the kind and charitable person has a more realistic, accurate view of the world and how it works. This is psychologically healthy, and the psychologically healthy attitude benefits general health.
Child sponsorship is not the anonymous donation that was more popular a few generations ago. By sponsoring a child we become aware of another individual life, and can see how our efforts make a difference. This may not be quite pure altruism; it is closer to a relationship. But if the giver benefits a little while the recipient benefits too, there is nothing wrong with that.