Sounds like the wrong message to be promoting in general, but for some Third Culture Kids (TCKs), this is exactly what they need to hear. One-size does not fit all when it comes to life sense.
Many TCKs have trouble readjusting to their ‘home’ societies; trying to fit in, they tend to overcompensate by being too self-sacrificing. Rather than asking themselves how they can maximize their abilities to help people, they ask, ‘What needs to be done to help?’ These two inquiries lead to very different outcomes. The first inquiry results in a win-win situation: work satisfaction and gratification from helping people. The second inquiry often leads to exactly the opposite feelings.
Consider this example: suppose you like computer programming. You turn down a job at Microsoft to work at a non-profit organization for a third of the salary so that you can “help people.” You spent most of your days fixing printers and teaching people how to cut and paste in Excel, and your soundtrack consists mostly of complaints about how IT sucks. You are neither happy nor making much of a difference, and you come home feeling tired and frustrated. Yes, they needed an IT person, but you don’t belong here. The most galling thing is that you had a choice, and you chose this.
Consider the alternative. Taking the Microsoft job instead, you are more satisfied and better paid. This productivity not only allows you to excel professionally, but the momentum carries over to your personal pursuits as well. You can donate your time, money, and skills to any cause you choose. You can even start your own foundation. The net benefit of this choice to society and yourself is immensely larger than that of working at the non-profit.
Plato defined justice as “having and doing what is one’s own.” Translation – Do what you do best. If everyone in society did this, we would have greater productivity and less angst. You don’t always need to sacrifice yourself to do good. If you are a good person, you’ll do good in whatever you choose to do.
3 thoughts on “You owe the world nothing”
I have always believed that you should use all your resources to benefit your own life, which will in turn allow you the most resources to benefit another. The only thing you have to remember is your good intentions. If you meant to help others, you need to fulfill that promise to yourself. Some times people take on jobs with higher salaries hoping that they will have more money to pass on to others. Somewhere along the way, they get lost in the money race. They forget that they intended to share the wealth.
Being good is as active a thing and doing good.
You are right – there is inherent danger of losing yourself when it comes to money or power. This is a classic theme in literature and history. If you do not remain the watchful master of yourself, these tools will master you.
Thank you for this article and many others, and for your website.