Empathy, compassion and intent to help others are far more satisfying than being a non-responsive bystander
By Dr. Nitesh Dhawan, Public Servant, Author and Educator
We are going through one of the most difficult times in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic which has turned out to be more lethal in its second wave. People are looking helpless and hopeless with many succumbing to the invisible virus attack. The lack of preparedness has exposed the governance of healthcare systems. People are asking for help from each other through social media platforms and their personal networks. However, there are others who are seeing this as an opportunity to flourish and make financial gains by black marketeering, hoarding and other unethical means. In this worst humanitarian crisis of the recent times, there is a call for humane approach in providing the much needed assistance and sharing of resources with the needy.
With lack of adequate medical facilities, medicines, oxygen cylinders, beds, doctors and paramedical staff in the hospitals, people are bound to seek help from their community members in this hour of need. But there are many who instead of offering their helping hand are interested in fulfilling their vested interests. This raises serious questions as to why people behave in such an unethical manner and do away from prosocial behavior during such critical times.
Human beings are special creatures who can sense other’s needs and empathize with those to come up with some kind of assistance. They have the ability to see the world from other’s perspective. In Bhagwat Gita, it is mentioned that to empathize is dharma and failure to do so is adharma. Humans have the potential to understand stranger’s fear and hunger and create resources to protect and provide care to others. But still we come across people who behave differently when help is sought after. This makes it pertinent to understand as to what inhibits people in being prosocial in times of need. Such factors could be-
- Diffusion of responsibility in which people think that others would come for help, also called as bystander effect.
• Motive of self interest is predominant than moral integrity
• Negative emotional state of an individual himself
• Lack of knowledge and skills required in the situation
• Individual differences in dispositional empathy towards others, genetically and due to learning experiences
Why one should help
There are many reasons to offer help in times of need. Being compassionate and providing help to those in need besides giving a sense of good karma to a helper has other intrinsic benefits which are-
- Simply because it makes one feel good
- Helper receives sense of satisfaction with the successful outcome of the help
- It reduces one’s own negative emotional state
- Service is a great illuminator
- Spiritually, selfless service with compassion only helps one to purify one’s actions
- It establishes a human ecosystem of mutuality, reciprocity and enables exchange of resources
- Makes life meaningful and worth living and improves self esteem of a helper
- Believing in the theory that as we sow, so we reap. What we give also comes back.
Ways to be a responsive helper
We could learn and adopt certain changes in our behavior and become prosocial in our approach. These are-
- Paying attention to what is happening around you
- If something unusual is noticed, try multiple alternatives to seek additional information
- Always remember that you are equally responsible as anyone else in helping a stranger in need
- Be willing to take a chance and do something
- Put yourself in other’s place to feel and think in a way similar to the person in need
The altruism is an unselfish concern for the welfare of others and the unprecedented situation like corona pandemic demands this prosocial behavior from all human beings. It is high time to be compassionate and empathetic in our actions and promote universal brotherhood in this phase of global humanitarian crisis. Good deeds become great source of joy. Empathy, compassion and intent to help others are far more satisfying than being a non-responsive bystander. The crisis situation needs increased sensitivity towards common suffering and humanitarian solutions to overcome adversities.