Reason to Believe

In Reason to Believe, Bruce Springsteen sings, “At the end of every hard-earned day / people find some reason to believe.” What’s your reason to believe?

About a year ago I think, I wrote a few blog posts entitled Here I Am and Mentor Me in which I assessed my main drivers or centers in life. During both posts I recognised that I can be held back from doing things I want, both because I put other people first or because I’m scared of it. By and large, those things still exist. I do still need support with things and I really am happy when other people are happy, and I don’t like it when they’re not.

My reason to believe was helping people out.

At the turn of the year, The Observer did a personality “quiz” entitled “How good you are at empathising?” with the aim of explaining a link between memory and empathy. If you’re interested, you’re probably best checking it out for yourself, but the premise was that they provided two lines of ten numbers. You had to read the first line and then remember which of the numbers were the same as the ones in the second line. The results of a study conducted at the University of Münster in Germany suggest that those people who could identify the duplicated numbers show more empathy than those who couldn’t pick all the duplicates or had more than one “false alarm”.

Although memory and empathy are two very different things, the theoretical link is that those with greater memory show more empathy because they remember how they felt in a particular situation and can use their experience of that to help someone else.

We’ve all, at one stage or another, wanted help. I certainly have, and it’s why I really value being able to help people myself.

Recent events in my life have made me wonder just how much you should expect to get back yourself in return for an act of kindness, and to what extent you should just look after number 1.

If you take an example of two friends… One is scared of riding a bike while the other is a fairly proficient on two wheels. Our cyclist, however, is terrified of social situations and in awe of her friend who is a social butterfly.

One day, recognising how her own fear and how much it affects her, our cyclist obtains a second bike and takes it round to her friend’s place. She attaches the stabilisers and, as her friend gets on the bike, she holds the seat as a show of support. He starts to peddle and, as his confidence increases, his friend lets go and he continues to ride round. I’m sure you can all picture that!

A few weeks or months later, our cyclist gets a rare date and she’s terrified that she’s going to screw it up. All she can picture is long silences and her spilling some wine down her top or the guy she’s going to meet. She’s also a little embarrassed about having to ask for help and advice, so drops some hints to her friend but they’re not read and, by the time she asks explicitly, her friend can’t be there to help because he’s in high altitude training in preparation for the Tour de France.

I’m not sure how I feel about the second part of the story. As friends, I don’t believe it necessary to look for things in return – there shouldn’t be contractual consideration or a balancing of the books in a true friendship. However, I think that our original cyclist could feel let down or maybe have a sense of being used while also understanding that our now competitive bike racer has other priorities in his life that he has to go for for himself.

Where is the line that separates the positive aspects of being selfless and being selfish?

Well, I have the fears, the pain and the tears I just can’t hide.
It all disappears ’cause everything passes with the time.
All you need is reason to believe.

Reason to Believe by Sum 41

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