The workings of the human mind are as mysterious as they are ubiquitous. By looking at the face of someone, it’s difficult or maybe impossible to figure out what he is thinking or planning. Each human is a maze of various desires, purposes, and powers.
Somewhere in the mind, either in its depth or much closer to the surface, are the feeling of unity and the urge to manifest it. There is something instinctive about this sympathetic, compassionate feeling that certain people want to generously bring to the forefront. It is inaccurate to say that it is something such a person wishes to show off like a luxury car or a shelf full of trophies. Instead, it is something good–a humble virtue. This disposition is called “benevolence”.
When benevolence is authentic, this craving to do good to others, or charitable actions is done silently and out of the limelight of personal pride and accolades. True benevolence is generosity of the heart. Benevolence is strongly related to benefit, and is personified in the benefactor. To be a humble benefactor is to exercise the friendliest virtue.
“To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.”–Abraham Lincoln
There is something positively selfish about sincere benefactors. Looking out for the welfare of others, is one way of looking out for the welfare of oneself. It’s more than just “warm fuzzies”. However, when coupled with self-righteousness, benevolence ceases to be pure of heart. The outwardly proud benefactor becomes artificial. The benefactor’s example will be marketed as a path to success and fame. Such boasting leads to intrigue and perhaps hostility. Sometimes such benefactors grant charity when it is neither wanted nor needed.
“Good is positive. Evil is merely privative, not absolute: it is like cold, which is the privation of heat. All evil is so much death or nonentity. Benevolence is absolute and real. So much benevolence as a man hath, so much life hath he.”–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Just as peace is not merely the absence of war, so benevolence is not merely the absence of greed. A true benefactor is a compassionate citizen of the world who is less concerned with nationality or ethnicity. Such a benefactor does not worry about her or his reputation or social standing. The gold standard is how much benevolence they can grant to others.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes 19th century education reformer, Horace Mann. “Generosity during life is a very different thing from generosity in the hour of death; one proceeds from genuine liberality and benevolence, the other from pride or fear.”