I hear this phrase far too often. My job requires me to find out what people want to do with their lives so I can connect them with the academic program that will best accomplish their goal. The problem is that no one knows what they want to do. It is very rare when I get to talk with someone who has goals for their life. For the majority of people that do not know I have to ask a lot of questions to figure it out. Usually I’m straight forward and simply ask “What career or goal do you wish to accomplish with your academics?” There’s always an awkward pause and then they reply “I don’t know. I just want to help people.”
This response is very frustrating to me on multiple levels. First, it is the most vague response ever. In what way do you want to help people? Which people do you want to help? All of them or just a select group? Do you want to help them medically, emotionally, spiritually, or financially? When someone gives me this answer it solves nothing because you can use any academic program to help people. I find nothing out about the person answering that will help me find the right program for them. Why do people feel like they cannot be honest by saying they want a job that pays them a lot of money? I can help a person who has an idea of a career they wish to obtain, but I cannot help a person who only wants to make themselves sound good by saying they want to help people.
The second reason this answer is frustrating is because no one who tells me this answer actually wants to help people. This may sound cynical but people are selfish and are out for their own gain. When they tell me they want to help people it’s just a go-to response so they don’t sound heartless by saying “I just want a job that will get me a lot of money.” In some ways I would respect this answer a lot more because at least the person is being honest. When someone says they want to help people I want to call BS on them. When I ask more questions I usually find out the truth like they really just want to get a degree so they can get a raise and buy their new car; not because they want to help people in whatever field they work in.
The last reason this is frustrating is that people want to help others for the wrong motives. As I said before, people are selfish. But, the depth of their selfishness always surprises me. I do sometimes get clients that tell me they truly want to help people, but when I ask why they respond with “It makes me feel good.” Really? You want to help others because it makes you feel good? That is your primary motivation? I don’t think selfishness could be anymore clear here. Yes, people want to feel good, and it does happen when helping others. However, when your main objective for helping others is because it makes you feel good then maybe you should re-evaluate your life. Helping others is suppose to be a selfless act. In other words, you should do it because it is good for the people you are helping not because it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. On one hand, I appreciate people’s honesty when they tell me they want to feel good. On the other hand, this response makes me want to throw up.
In Mark 12:31 Jesus says “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” I hear a lot of people loving themselves, but rarely do I hear true love for our neighbors. If people actually went out and helped people like they tell me they want to then our world would probably functions a lot more peacefully.