Showing empathy may always be the right thing to do but seemingly getting caught up in a competition to prove oneself more empathetic than others could reveal character traits that we may not be proud of, and, also, in some cases, likely result in our carefully cultivated image in society taking a beating.
I write this in the backdrop of the innumerable individual acts of charity and philanthropy following the COVID-19 outbreak, which, while noble in themselves, may lose much of their nobility if those undertaking such activities used these to showcase how, compared to peers, their hearts beat more for the less privileged.
Doing bigger and bigger charitable acts only to go one up on someone in the same socio-economic group, while feeding the ego, could open the possibility of us not exactly coming across as paragons of virtue interested in solely doing good. The likelihood of us not being perceived as good Samaritans, despite our numerous kindly acts, too, may get augmented if somehow the impression gains ground that, directly or indirectly, we are encouraging others to spread the word about our ‘compassion’.
Unlike companies, charitable trusts, or foundations, which, to comply with the requirements of stakeholder transparency and/or regulatory compliances, need to specifically mention details of expenditure incurred on charitable/philanthropic acts, individuals have no such compulsions to let the whole world know about their good deeds. For individuals, if they so choose, may even take steps to ensure that their identities remain a secret to recipients and beneficiaries of their acts of charity and philanthropy.
At the end of the day, it is up to us to decide why we would like to perform acts of charity or philanthropy. Undertaking these for ‘personal branding’ or to flaunt our ‘goodness’ are motivations that are always going to exist (even if we are unwilling to admit this fact to anybody else) as would be for just selflessly doing good. The guiding force in our own case could hold a clue on what we really are at the core.