In my part of the world, every advice seems to be followed by some supposedly wise sayings. African societies have rich collections of very good proverbs, but those proverbs are being relegated to the background in favour of some suspiciously evangelical ‘wise’ sayings.
These supposedly ‘wise’ sayings do get on my nerves. Some of these sayings are so common that I am beginning to think perhaps people just say those things from force of habit, without actually thinking them through.
In particular, I hate ‘wise’ sayings that attach a reason to why we need to help others. For example:
- “Be nice to people on your way up, because you might meet them on your way down”
- “You don’t know what this person would be tomorrow, be nice to them today”
- “Help someone because that is what God wants good believers to do”
Do we really need a reason before we extend a helping hand to someone in need?
Must we have a reason that benefits us before we are convinced to help others?
Can’t we just help someone because it is the HUMANE thing to do?
You don’t need to offer to help someone because you think they might be of help to you tomorrow. Even if there was a crystal ball that clearly showed that the person you are about to help will never be in a position to reciprocate your help, help them anyway.
Help, not out of fear or for hope of a reward.
You don’t need to help just because God told you to.
You don’t need to help because you fear you will be tossed into hell-fire if you didn’t.
You don’t need to help because you hope for a reward of paradise points.
You don’t need a reason before you extend a helping hand to anyone.
You don’t need a reason to help someone that is down to get back on their feet.
You don’t need a reason to be HUMANE.
These supposedly ‘wise’ sayings just end up perpetuating the impression that we should only help others if we stand to gain something from the action. Helping anyone because of expectation of personal gains does not make us better persons. It does not build or encourage a selfless society.
Extending a helping hand to people should not be about rewards, rewards, rewards. Words matter, language matter. They help to build characters. We should use words and language that encourages selflessness because that is a way selflessness can be a force of habit.