Helping is so appealing, and why?

by Paul Burmeister

Writer Garret Keizer's book on help (2004) explores the question: what makes helping so appealing to the helper. Here are the possible reasons—the reasons are not virtuous because they are common or inevitable to the do-gooder who has been burned in the helping transaction:

The helper can exercise power.

The helper can resolve his / her guilty conscience.

The helper can go against best judgment or conventional wisdom of others.

The helper views the helped person like a little child.

The helper gets manipulated, usually to a degree that is knowing.

The helper is attracted to (and participates in) a good story.

The helper can discover the self or soul of another person.

This list of reasons is pulled from pages 106-11, Help: The Original Human Dilemma, in which Keizer recounts Norman Mailer's infamous help for Jack Abbott.