Selfish vs. Selfless

Why our relationships prove people are born good

Laurel Westerman, Staff Writer

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Fingers graze against your palm, restarting your heart at a faster tempo. A friend laughs, and you can’t help but smile back. Your dog bounds up to you, nearly knocking you to the floor in a pile of giggles.

For centuries, people have debated the truth behind basic human nature: are we inherently selfish or selfless? Personally, I believe the proof of our “good” nature can be found in how we interact with each other and the relationships we make.

We are social creatures, gravitating toward helping others from an early age, regardless of rewards. If we are not “good,” why would we bother interacting with others when we are not guaranteed something in return?

Humans live for authenticity and crave genuine, honest relationships. We are hardwired to fall in love; According to a Harvard University study, the body releases dopamine and norepinephrine when spending time with loved ones, getting us “hooked” on each other. Something as small as a hug releases oxytocin, which lowers blood pressure. And, in stressful situations, reaching out to hold someone’s hand legitimately alleviates fear. Essentially, we positively reinforce ourselves for caring about others, and we rarely release such chemicals in self-centered situations.

As humans, honesty is extremely important to us. This is why we face so much internal conflict when deciding whether we should lie–and most people only lie to avoid hurting someone’ else’s feelings.

Smiling is a basic human instinct. In fact, humans are born knowing how to smile–even blind people, proving that this is not learned. We are literally born looking to bond with others, meant to appear, and be, friendly.

The human race is also extremely resilient, both on individual and global levels, and look to help each other even in the midst of struggle. We’re naturally generous. People feel significantly better spending money on others than on themselves.

A frequent point of contention for those who believe that we are born to be self-serving lies in the behavior of those who commit heinous crimes like rape and murder. However, I cannot believe that people are born wanting, or willing to commit such acts.

Mental illness is a likely component in reshaping someone’s psychology, but humans are also shaped by the world around us, and the way others, and our society, interact with us. Abuse, for example, can have a significant impact on the outcome of a person’s life.

As stated by the US National Library of Medicine, those who experience abuse are more likely to repeat abusive relationships and unconsciously “wish to be transformed from the abused into the abuser.” Meaning that, after experiencing abuse, a victim’s personality can be molded to mimic their abuser, creating a cycle of neglectful maltreatment.

Therefore, without violent interference, I don’t find it hard to believe that everyone would act more selflessly. After all, the evidence is in our own interactions.

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Selfish vs. Selfless