"For it is in giving that we receive."
~Saint Francis of Assisi
"The sole meaning of life is to serve humanity."
"We make a living by what we get; we make a life by what we give."
"If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody."
But while philosophers and saints wax poetic, is there any science and hard data that back up the idea that giving is good for the giver? The resounding answer is yes.
Today, scientific research provides compelling data to support the notion that giving one's time, talents and treasures is a powerful pathway to finding purpose, transcending difficulties, and finding fulfillment and meaning in life.
Survival of the kindest
At the University of California, Berkeley, researchers are challenging long-held beliefs that human beings are hardwired to be selfish. There is a growing body of evidence that shows we are evolving to become more compassionate and collaborative in our quest to survive and thrive.
"Because of our very vulnerable offspring, the fundamental task for human survival and gene replication is to take care of others," said Dacher Keltner, co-director of UC Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center. "Human beings have survived as a species because we have evolved the capacities to care for those in need and to cooperate."
Does this oppose Charles Darwin's "survival of the fittest" competition model, in which every man has to look after himself? Not so, it seems. In "The Descent of Man," Darwin talks about benevolence 99 times, concluding that love, sympathy and cooperation also exist in the natural world, like the way a pelican might provide fish for a blind pelican in its flock.
"As Darwin long ago surmised, sympathy is our strongest instinct," Keltner said.
--Excerpted from Live Science