There are many times in American culture when we know something is better left unsaid or when we are certain someone else’s life is none of our business. However, sometimes this bleeds into too familiar territory, and we miss out on chances to say what needs to be said, to intervene to help someone we care about, or to solve an important problem.
It is not easy task to find the balance between stepping in because you care about someone and staying out of the way because you trust them to make a choice on their own. There is never a clear cut answer. The media illustrates these competing ideas all the time. Super hero productions epitomize the idealistic view of intervening to solve other peoples’ problems while stern, silent leads keep out of the spotlight and preach about staying out of other people’s business.
Science traditionally isn’t much help either. In the prominent interpretations of Richard Dawkins’s selfish gene and Charles Darwin’s origins theories as survival of the fittest, people may have a cynical view of humanity. People may misinterpret what they are meant to do. I heard one psychology student adamantly defend the idea that every act is a selfish act shaped by societal expectations.
However, there is a new idea of the biological value of connectedness and compassion which paints a drastically different picture. Continue reading →