Why do people do what they do?
When you have a daughter who reads a lot—spontaneous, thoughtful conversations can happen. These deep chats about life…you might even call philosophical. One recent talk Ella and I had was about trying to understand human reasoning: why people do what they do—the incredibly beautiful actions, the hurtful, the generous, the odd, the kind, the unpleasant, the thoughtful, the sincere and some other undesirable adjectives as well.
Ella was curious about people, the differences in their behaviors –I guess we could call them. She wondered about those who might not want to see us succeed in our ‘off-roads’ Homeschool Journey— But before we go any further, we suggest to you parents—reading our book: TAKE THE GOOD FROM IT—that is lovingly offered and don’t let anyone discourage you on your own off-roads journey.
We certainly don’t let anyone discourage us.
We laughed—this day, at how we sometimes think of ourselves as keenly—perceptive.
As my daughter and I sat there talking over some things we’d read and recently experienced—I was astonished and empathetic with her 7 year old curiosity over human behavior, some of life’s injustices and the apparent void of good intentions in humanity at times.
A little story my mom shared—came to mind:
An old Cherokee told his grandson,
“My son, there is a battle between two wolves inside us all.
One is Evil. It is anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies & ego.
The other is Good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy & truth.”
The boy thought about it—and asked, “Grandfather, which wolf wins?”
The old man quietly replied, “The one you feed.”
We talked about human’s reasons for doing things.
We tried to ‘reason’ through these reasons.
We gave the reasons a proper name.
We called them people’s motives.
Did we solve the greatest answers plaguing humanity?
Well, I’m pretty sure—not even close.
But here’s what we uncovered:
—What are motives?
A motive is a person’s intentions or purpose for doing something—why they want to—or don’t want to do something. We all have reasons for every single thing we think and do.
—What makes a person choose their motives or reasons for acting a certain way?
Each individual’s reason, desire or driving purpose to do some action—can only be answered by them— inside their own thoughts & mind.
—Does a person have a choice in what their motives will be?
Some say—No. We choose our actions based upon a mental response to a series of split-second thought-impulses or signals in our mind. These help us to make decisions determined by our reasons, logic and common sense. This has all been developed by our experiences and our learning.
Others say: Yes. If a person tries to become aware of what motivates them to act in a particular way—they become a ‘chooser’ of their own intentions.
I say to you Ella—we are responsible for choosing WHAT motivates OUR actions. That’s all we can be concerned about & even if we fumble a million times—IF our intentions & motives grow for the good, we are progressing forward.
—What motivates people to respond or act contrary to the kindness of human nature?
Social injustice and the rampant state of human suffering are raging in the world today—this creates a lot of unnecessary animosity. It may be why humanity seems almost imprisoned within the confines of self-doubt. So, the best thing to do is—FOCUS ON PUTTING YOUR OWN EFFORTS WHERE THEY WILL DO THE MOST GOOD, AND BE MOST APPRECIATED.
—What motives would help a person to do good?
I think this boils down to a greater sense of Trust—like the kind children have in their parents. When we trust that any good actions we do for someone else do not take something away from us—a shift occurs within us. This type of purposeful living is mutually rewarding—though the ‘rewards’ are not usually ‘seen’ in the ways we might hope or expect.
—Why is it called the human NATURE when it doesn’t always seem natural?
Well, this is a profound & philosophical question. Let’s reverse the words—human nature: the nature of humanity. What a beautiful way to conclude our conversation for now and consider 3 points.
- First, if another human’s actions come out of good intentions or motives, we CAN feel those. There isn’t any question left there. We see without eyes—that the individual must retain a sense of their own innate innocence.
- Secondly, if someone’s actions appear kind but the motives are not—we can feel that, as well (perceptiveness). We get a subtle or not-so-subtle feeling—of the un-natural aspect of that human nature.
- Finally, when we as human beings refuse to do an act of kindness that would bring joy to another—or even—act with negative intention—others feel it because of the UN-NATURAL, inauthentic nature of the motive.
So, understanding that we are ALL part of something bigger—means we can also TRUST that our efforts to do good for someone else don’t minimize our worth, but strengthen it. It’s about pushing ourselves moment by moment above the mere shackles of our humanity—to a higher self.
We had come to the end of our conversation with the answers we needed for that moment…they were questions that would take us the rest of our lives to continue working out.
Then Ella said, “Our motives are to do good where it can do… the most good.”
The conduct of our own life was the struggle we had to focus on and the educating of our own heart.
Big Changes are coming…
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