It is normal to have ulterior motives when you try to help others. The ultimate ideal is to transcend them. Denying them causes you to hold onto them. Acknowledge any ulterior motives you have and then you will be on the road to overcoming them.
The goal is to do acts of kindness out of love for kindness and out of love for people. It is doing kindness for the pure benefit of the people for whom you are doing it. The focus is on helping another and not on what you personally gain. Being human it is natural for us to have ulterior motives at the beginning. Some of them are:
Doing kindness in order to feel that you are a good person.
Doing kindness so this person will do you favors in return.
Doing kindness so other people will have greater respect for you.
Doing kindness in order to save yourself from the embarrassment of what people will think if you refuse.
Doing kindness so you can boast about it.
Doing kindness so this person will be indebted to you.
Doing kindness so you will be loved because you are terrified that you might be unlovable.
This does not mean that we should wait to begin to do acts of kindness until we are able to have totally pure motivations. It's impossible to tell how long that will take. It does mean, however, that it is imperative for us to recognize why we are doing what we are doing. It's normal to have mixed emotions. We do a kind act in part because we want to help another person or because we care about this individual and also because we want this person to help us or because we want to feel good about ourselves.
When you meet someone who has a sincere love for kindness, you can tell. Their entire being conveys this message, "I'm glad you asked me. Whatever I possibly can do for you, it is my great pleasure to do. You don't owe me anything at all for what I have done. And please feel free to ask me again in the future." Such a person lives a joyous life out of the goodness of his heart. This is a goal worth striving for.
One of my students told me the following:
"I remember how hurt I was when I was told that my source of kindness was my wanting to be liked," the young man told me. "I argued that I did kindness for its own sake."
"It was suggested that I think about it for a moment. If I had to choose between helping a person who would be angry at me for not helping him or someone who needed my help even more but wouldn't have any complaints against me for not helping him, who would I choose to help?"
"I had to acknowledge that fear of disapproval would play a decisive role in my choice. This awareness helped me upgrade my motives."
From Kindness: Making a Difference in People's Lives: Formulas, stories, and insights
By Zelig Pliskin
Search for Homeless People
After finishing a nice dinner at a restaurant, we had some food left over that the restaurant kindly packed for us to go. My date asked that I take it home and eat it myself. Knowing that I had some food in my fridge that would expire that needed to be eaten, I really couldn't see myself finishing this food.
Not wanting it to go to waste, I got off the Subway one stop earlier where I knew I could locate a homeless person in need of some fresh food. G-d did not make this good deed difficult for me; as I located a homeless lady sitting on the platform immediately upon exiting the train.
When I gave her the fresh left over food and told her that I just got home from dinner and was not able to finish the food on my own and wished her to have it, her face lit up in thanks and showering with blessing. The feeling I had for really making this women happy was very special.
The author wishes to remain anonymous
Edited by Shmuel Greenbaum
Printed with Permission of Partners in Kindness