Acts of Compassion: Caring for Others and Helping Ourselves by Robert Wuthnow

By Robert Wuthnow

Robert Wuthnow reveals that those who find themselves such a lot all in favour of acts of compassion are not any much less individualistic than somebody else--and that people who find themselves the main intensely individualistic are not any much less considering taking care of others. Robert Wuthnow unearths that those people who are such a lot occupied with acts of compassion aren't any much less individualistic than somebody else--and that those who find themselves the main intensely individualistic are not any much less enthusiastic about taking care of others.

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Additional resources for Acts of Compassion: Caring for Others and Helping Ourselves

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And, if so, what is that role? Let me illustrate. Suppose I visit one of my students who is in the hospital. That is an act, a concrete behavior, maybe even a helping behavior (I take him his homework). Suppose he is in some pain and feeling rather depressed. I may leave sharing some of his depression as well, in which case my act has had both a physical and an emotional dimension. But whether it is an act of compassion depends on how I am able to interpret it—to him, to myself, or to anyone who might ask for an account.

Each person must find the balance that seems best to him or her. But that itself is a matter of negotiation, a matter of self-interpretation and discussion, a matter of finding a culturally suitable language. In each of our three cases we have seen a great deal of self-examination. We have seen the complexity with which motives are described. We have seen the importance of language about emotions, about feelings, about the self and its limits. How people come to grips with these aspects of their caring seems to be terribly important to them.

We must have a language that allows us to explain to ourselves and others why we are doing what we do. And in an individualistic society, where caring is sometimes seen as an abnormality, it becomes all the more important to be able to give an account of ourselves. An adequate language of motivation is thus one of the critical junctures at which the individual and the society intersect: being able to explain why is as important to our identity as a culture as it is to our sense of selfhood as individuals.

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