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Ethics in a delicate situation: what do you think?

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Read this anecdote, answer the two poll questions and share your comments for 2 weeks! On March 9, an article will be posted, presenting several notions relevant to this discussion along with some guidelines for a good practice.

Let us note at the outset that the point is not to reach an answer that would be “right” or “wrong” in the absolute sense. Reality is far too complex to be summarised in that way. This is the toy model of a “clinical case study”: a virtual exercise in the form a poll aimed exclusively at promoting reflection and exchanges.

A delicate situation …

Jack and Kelly are a couple. Jack is very socially involved and devotes a lot of his time to charitable activities in their neighborhood. Winter has been particularly harsh this year and Jack has been volunteering countless hours and coming back home very late every night. Tonight is Jack and Kelly’s wedding anniversary. He knows it, his colleagues know it, and they have offered to cover for him so that he could celebrate with Kelly. He accepts their offer at first, but as the evening is getting closer, he starts feeling more and more guilty. So many people need him… and there is this stand he runs every night. At the last minute, he gives in and decides to go help out the team that provides meals for the destitute. His wife, despite exhausting professional obligations, has taken the time to cook a nice meal—she is very upset. The atmosphere is tense when Jack leaves the apartment.

What do you think?

If you are viewing this article from the mobile app, click here to participate in the poll.

1. In your opinion, which of the following contribute to a correct analysis of this situation?

  1. Efforts of generosity always meet obstacles that must be overcome to allow progress: Jack should have expected Kelly’s opposition and prepared himself better for this test in order to prevent any conflict.
  2. The well-being of one’s spouse should always take precedence. It should be preferred to the well-being of others and even to one’s own well-being.
  3. It is selfish not to support one’s spouse in their devotion to others: Kelly should have encouraged her husband’s decision.
  4. The only way to truly develop the virtue of generosity within oneself is to make continuous efforts towards acting generously in concrete situations: Jack had to keep that momentum going and report for duty accordingly.
  5. There are no fundamental differences between helping others and devoting sufficient time to one’s spouse: Jack could have spent that evening exclusively with his wife and still be practicing ethics.

Access directly to the poll results if you have already voted

2. Do you have an alternative view of the situation? Is there anything you would like to add to the discussion?

Share your thoughts in the comments section!

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  1. Kv Feb 24, 2014 7:13 am 1

    The rights of his wife and his duties towards her should take priority over helping others

  2. David Feb 24, 2014 7:18 am 2

    He knows his anniversary is coming up and his wife has rights as well, so he could arrange ahead of time for better coverage for himself, and spend the evening with his lovely wife, possibly get some flowers and a memorable gift. In this case he had time to be prepared, and his wife has as much right or more, as others. But if something urgent comes up, then depends which option is more urgent, vital and irreparable.

  3. Elements Feb 24, 2014 12:42 pm 3

    I’m struck by the fact that everything was already organised for him to spend a significant occasion with his wife, but he impulsively bailed out at the last minute.
    It is very difficult to assess how much others needed his help on that particular evening, and what kind of relationship he has with his wife. I got the impression he perhaps enjoyed the charity work more than a night in with his wife, so maybe they need to work on their relationship. Impossible to judge without knowing them well though.

  4. MH Feb 24, 2014 12:45 pm 4

    We meet often this sort of situation all along our life!
    There is a hierarchy of our duties: first our companion, second our children, then our parents, and eventually the others.
    But it’s very difficult to find the correct way to act as the context is often more complicate to understand…
    (I read the French website too and I notice that the answers are different! Choice b has a percentage higher for the French…)

  5. amt Feb 24, 2014 2:07 pm 5

    I believe everything depends on the situation. In this situation he should have stayed home and spent time with his spouse. This way he broke her heart and made her unhappy. He totally forgot about the well-being and happiness of her.

  6. NasN Feb 24, 2014 2:22 pm 6

    Since Jack’s friends had offered to cover him for that particular night, I think Jack was wrong to leave his wife & go for the charity work. He has a responsibility towards his wife & should not let his altruism overcome his domestic duties. I think his behaviour is becoming too obsessive.

  7. Lisa Feb 24, 2014 2:39 pm 7

    That special evening he could talk to Kelly about involving her in his voluntary work.

  8. Marc Feb 24, 2014 2:44 pm 8

    I think intention to help others and observing the right of his spouse in this scenario are both important, spiritually. Usually, the manner in which an act is performed creates problems. He could have shared and explained his dilemma to his wife, and gotten her agreement for his final decision. Perhaps, celebrating it over a romantic lunch, or doing it another night, perhaps on weekend would be ideal. The important issue here is prevention. He should have obtained his wife’s agreement one way or another.

  9. E Feb 24, 2014 2:55 pm 9

    I definately believe that Jack should have spent the evening with his wife.
    My personal experience in the last years has been that I got “burntout” because of my “helping syndrom”. As a result I neglected my son, was agressive towards others, got health problems, etc. Its difficult to understand that we just can’t save everyone! The people Jack was helping will still be there tomorrow. However, he could have won his wife’s heart by being there for her.

  10. Leyla Akmal Feb 24, 2014 3:53 pm 10

    It is possible in this particular case to keep Kelly happy by staying for dinner home, wholeheartedly showing love and gratitude for her and their well being as a couple. Then after dinner Jack could request her to accompany him for a few hours to complete what he believes to be his duty.
    I think Kelly knows well how fulfilled her husband becomes by performing theses altruistic deeds and as a woman myself, I would recognize, support and join him in implementing that quality within my marriage.
    Their union will be ever more complete in those meaningful actions than just spending an evening eating together…

  11. Antonio Caspar Feb 24, 2014 4:41 pm 11

    Jack should recognize their anniversary by a suitable gift and a warm attitude
    he should encourage his wive to make the private ceremony as brief as possible
    and convince her to join the social work in the neighborhood together,
    they will remember the event happily for ages to come

  12. neuro Feb 24, 2014 4:53 pm 12

    One should perform one’s duties to their utmost as long as it does not interfere with the rights of others.

    In this case, even though Jack’s intention was to help the needy, he did so in spite of his wife having gone out of her way to cook a meal for him, and canceling on her last minute (after she had already cooked/prepared to cook the meal). This principle is a critical one to consider in this case scenario, i think.

  13. lmarias Feb 24, 2014 5:46 pm 13

    I am actually somewhat facing this situation. I currently have a huge exam for my graduate course and have a significant other that I want to make sure I spend time with. I knew this exam would take a lot of my time if I do not prepare for it earlier. I started studying a month and a half ahead of time. I try to spend the free time that I have with my significant other during the process to not make him feel neglected. Yet, I am not sure if this is the right method to what I am doing. This survey got published here at a very good time. I am in conflict and sometimes get anxious about this method. I feel guilty like the case explains and feel like I am being too available… it sounds ridiculous when I write it, but the feeling is there. I would love to hear what others think about this.

  14. NCG Feb 24, 2014 5:54 pm 14

    Thanks for sharing this scenario. In my opinion, Jack should have spent time with his wife on that specific night because respecting the right of one’s spouse takes priority over the rights of others. Besides, he was always helping others and could have stayed with his wife to make her happy for that specific night.

  15. MR. Feb 24, 2014 6:15 pm 15

    “…but as the evening is getting closer, he starts feeling more and more guilty…” Jack should also analyze the source of his guilt.

  16. Homayoun Feb 24, 2014 7:00 pm 16

    Jack could have offered to Kelly as a suggestion that perhaps what better way of celebrating their anniversary than both of them contributing to this cause. Or perhaps jointly devoting half of the evening to this cause and the rest of it to go out for dinner to celebrate.

  17. LAS Feb 24, 2014 7:45 pm 17

    I believe this case is all about striking a balance between responsibility towards one’s partner and generosity towards one’s community, or altruism. In this case, Jack could have taken the time to have dinner with Kelly who, contrary to him, put her own busy schedule on pause in order to celebrate their anniversary. Especially since he had found people to take care of his work while on leave, thereby honouring his responsibilities and ensuring the destitute are still provided for.

  18. Mask Feb 24, 2014 10:01 pm 18

    If there is a good understanding between the couple, the bitter moments and Unpleasant matrimonial experience would be reduced to the least. A well established communication system between them could thoughtfully manage the special day, and it could been one charming evening for both. We don’t even know if the husband had provided his spouse with any type of thoughtful present; wedding anniversary is the time of reminding love and caring.

  19. H Feb 24, 2014 10:05 pm 19

    I think from a spiritual perspective, we have a duty towards others and toward altruism, but that duty comes after our duty towards ourselves, our spouses, our children, our parents, etc. Jack is doing a wonderful thing but in being altruistic and putting his duty toward others above his duty toward his wife, he is in a way trampling on her rights as a spouse. I think Kelly is already understanding of the fact that Jack spends much of his time volunteering – their anniversary was one evening for him to show that he appreciates her understanding and reciprocate. I think Jack needs to see that the duty he has toward those closest to him come before his duty toward others, and work to maintain a balance between these.

  20. Henry Feb 24, 2014 10:23 pm 20

    The right of spouse is above helping the charity. He has been helping the charity periodically and now there is an opportunity of spouse satisfaction, but he seems to enjoy the charity work more . Performing good deeds and right of other’s is not necessarily enjoyable.

  21. nahjaf Feb 24, 2014 10:25 pm 21

    In prioritising beneficent acts, I have noticed that, more often than not, I am guilty of giving priority to those which bolster my ego. That is, upon reflection, I have realised that I am always ready and eager, and in fact particularly enjoy, to do that which is noticeable and praised by others. Conversely, when dealing with matters which seem mundane, unassuming and inconspicuous, I can readily find legitimate excuses to abstain from doing them. As such, while I am not always consciously aware of this, the underlying motivation for my ethical actions is not the abidance of the call of duty predicated upon seeking divine contentment, for, my egoistic desires are always interwoven in the fabric of all I do, even when I attempt to practice ethics. However, whenever, I manage to delve within and hear the call of my inner guide, I catch a glimpse of these sly and egoistic motivations, and thus feel ashamed of the self-satisfied feelings that accompany my pseudo ethical practices, particularly, when I have trampled on the rights of others in so doing.

  22. Nelkat Feb 24, 2014 10:41 pm 22

    Selflessness and helping others in need is a great attribute, however, Jack should have spent that evening with his wife. When we devote our time to help others, we still have to pay attention to our immediate family. They have rights that are not to be ignored.
    I agree with David that Jack had enough time to make a different arrangement and value his wife’s time and effort. I believe that we have to be very careful not to hurt our family’s feelings and not to act in a way that they feel neglected and left out.

  23. AE Feb 24, 2014 11:50 pm 23

    Jack seems to have a “helper” type personality, which is getting in the way of his relationships with his wife, assuming the tension between them is not a one time event and there’s little $ left in their “emotional bank account”. It’s often challenging to consciously bring a 3rd person perspective to the decisions we make and see the situation from an observer stand point, which would be useful in this situation for Jack. I look forward to seeing the suggested practice in a few weeks.

  24. B Feb 25, 2014 12:00 am 24

    The reason I chose “non of the above” rather than choosing choice “e” is that I think devoting sufficient time to one’s spouse and observing their rights has a higher precedence over helping others. Specially since jack’s colleagues had offered to cover for him, he could’ve taken the time off and sped it with Kelly. But if there was no fundamental difference, it would not matter what choice Jack would’ve taken.

  25. Leila Feb 25, 2014 4:30 am 25

    I think here it comes down to the “RIGHTS”, Jack should have thought about Kelly’s right. He can sacrifice from his own part but not from hers.

  26. S Feb 25, 2014 6:25 am 26

    I think having a good balance in life is important. We have responsibilities towards our family as well as towards society, so hurting our spouse’s feelings is not good for our soul. In this case she is rightfully upset.

  27. J.C. Feb 25, 2014 6:30 am 27

    In general, Kelly should be supportive of her husband’s charitable activities but on the anniversary night, Jack should have considered the rights of his wife and stayed to celebrate with her particularly since his friends had offered to help him out with the charity.

  28. Kat Feb 25, 2014 6:56 am 28

    “He accepts their offer at first, but as the evening is getting closer, he starts feeling more and more guilty. So many people need him…” I think Jack’s pride and ego are getting in the way. He is presenting himself as being very important and that his colleagues can not do the work without him. He has given himself the impression that if he is not there then the stand that he runs will not function as effectively.

  29. nm Feb 25, 2014 8:08 am 29

    I think it’s best to first practice ethics towards your family. There are obviously other issues at play if Jack would rather spend time with his friends than make his wife happy. Maybe Jack likes the attention he gets from helping in his charities or other reasons. In my opinion, his wife’s reasonable needs should’ve take precedence in this situation but he was being selfish.

  30. Noel Feb 25, 2014 12:59 pm 30

    He acted impulsively when he changed his plans and disappointed his wife. Before he acted he should have analyzed this impulse, and determined its root as well as weighed the different rights and duties involved. When I change plans at the last minute and trespass on someone’s rights, I usually justify my decision by referring to ethical principles. Perhaps if he had looked deeper he would have learned more about his motivation and intention regarding his last minute decision. As a result, he might have expanded his self-knowledge, perhaps identified a character flaw or weak point as well as deepened his understanding of how to practice altruism correctly.

  31. Lemonade Feb 25, 2014 4:59 pm 31

    We can analyze Jack and Kelly as individual agents.

    Jack: Excellent that he is active in his community charity but it should be performed to a balanced extent and not at the expense of his relationship with his wife. Ethics begins in the home and we should keep in mind our rights and duties. The ideal way to be involved in community service is to also not be negligent towards our family. But we should also realize that some of the time we spend with family could incorporate community service where the couple participates in an event together or, if applicable,they take their children to a community service event to help out. This would fulfill spending time with family, as well as doing good for the community and teaching the kids about the importance of doing good for others. Nevertheless, I think we should always consider how we are making those around us feel. What good is it to make a huge difference in the community while the most important person in your life is hurt and feels lonely and under appreciated?
    In my opinion, Jack should realize that this one night is important to his wife and if, for some reason, their anniversary coincides with an important charity event that he can’t miss, he should make a clear point to make plans for a different day to celebrate and make his wife happy. Ignoring his wife’s wishes isn’t the solution.

    Kelly: How great that she took the time to cook for him. She values their anniversary and it’s important to her. Also of note is that her husband has been very active in the community and it seems that she’s been supportive of it. She expected that for this night, however, that he skip the community service and have dinner with her. It’s not an unreasonable expectation but once he decided he wants to go, her default mode was to be upset. One alternative is that she could have expressed her wishes and expectations earlier on so that they were on the same page and clear about when/how they would celebrate their anniversary and spend time together. Being open and honest in a relationship is important. Another alternative is that she could have joined her husband in his pursuit of community service since it’s very important to him. They would have spent time together and felt good about what they did and could celebrate over the weekend. I think being supportive of your partner’s charitable pursuits is beneficial to both individuals and likely has a good effect on the entire family.
    Kelly should stand up for her right to spend time with her husband while also taking into account her husband’s happiness and wishes and being understanding.

  32. Coco Feb 25, 2014 7:10 pm 32

    Jack seems to have succumed to the inappropriate impulse of feeling guilty which if analyzed using his inner guide he might have dismissed. I think if he had done the analysis, he would have recognized that he was achieving his goal to practice altruism by arranging with his colleagues in advance to provide the services needed that night and that his guilt was misplaced and probably the work of his imperious self trying to misguide him, since he would be violating his wife’s rights if he did not keep his commitment to her to spend the evening together.

  33. Venus Feb 25, 2014 9:55 pm 33

    If I were him knowing about this upcoming event, I would plan ahead & take her out for a nice lunch on that day & even take care of gifts, flowers etc for her!
    I would explain to her why I would need to go to my charitable activity that night too and ask if she would accompany me & perhaps help me there & tell her that this will be the best gift that she could ever give me for the anniversary!
    Of course he should discuss all this ahead of this date with her.
    Who knows she may like the same gift that he asked for herself,the following year!
    I think this way he gets her introduced hands on to the joy of giving to others, while he is practicing good organization in his spiritual duties & at the same time they spend the evening together!

  34. Nahal Feb 26, 2014 12:33 am 34

    Jack must learn to find a proper balance between his charitable activities and his personal life. Being charitable to others is a great quality but not when it is to the detriment of your loved ones.

  35. Zari Feb 26, 2014 2:07 am 35

    I think he ignored his wife’s right, this anniversary is only one night of the year, and he could do a double shift another night or even on the weekend or so

  36. Haleh Feb 26, 2014 2:33 am 36

    To “Judge” Jack, one needs more information. As Elements (comment 3) says, we need to know the quality of the relationship between the couple and the exact situation in that organisation. Would somebody have lost his life without his help, for example?
    Yet, in general, we can say that some moments never come back. People in need are always there (as mentioned in some of previous comments) but there is only one chance in a wide range of time to practically show your love to your spouse. Apparently Jack does not spend much time with his wife in the evenings due to charity works. What the wife wanted was just one evening on their anniversary. I think when the wife sees other couples having dinner together and feels upset because she does not have this simple thing in her life, even in her anniversary, all points in Jacks good deeds will go away.

  37. Vanessa Feb 26, 2014 5:15 am 37

    Jack should not trump his wife’s legitimate rights to do an altruistic act for someone else. While Jack may have good intentions, he should be aware of his wife’s feelings and realize that spending time with her for their anniversary can be seen as an altruistic act itself.

  38. S Feb 26, 2014 5:59 am 38

    Because their anniversary happens only once a year, and Jack does his volunteering on an ongoing basis, even if Jack wanted to spend that night volunteering he should have discussed it with his wife and reached an agreement with her to rearrange their plans (with her consent). If his wife did not consent, then he should not get upset and not go to volunteer. I think it is her right to spend their anniversary together.

  39. drM. Feb 26, 2014 2:44 pm 39

    It’s tricky to judge Jack, since, as many said, i would need some more information about this situation they have got.
    I’ll bring this story inside the relationship between my wife and me, it’s easier.
    Hurting my wife feelings and wasting the time she spent in cooking a nice dinner in order to celebrate our anniversary would make me feel guilty and responsible to be honest. She’s the person i chose to be devoted to and the one who put and who’s putting real efforts to make my life better. The rights she earned can’t be compared to anyone else’s rights or needs, especially in a moment (an anniversary) that can be important even if just in a symbolic manner. At least a schedule change should be agreed between us. So i guess he should act more conscientiously.
    (sorry in advance for any english mistake i could have done)

  40. Maya Feb 26, 2014 3:37 pm 40

    Sometimes husbands and wifes are on a same path for their life, even encourage each other not to lose even one chance to help and be of service to others ,meanwhile culturally ,there are some days and moments that are so good for showing the appreciation , respect and love to each other in marriage ! Jack could use this day to do so ! and the rest of the whole year for charity ,if he sees his wife expects him to and would be happy !

  41. SusanB Feb 26, 2014 5:37 pm 41

    The people who ‘needed’ him so much were actually being given help by Jack’s colleagues who were happy to help out and so in reality didn’t need him that night. The person who actually ‘needed’ him that evening was Kelly. He has a duty towards his wife.
    Kelly is being reasonable as she is not complaining about other nights he comes home late and, in that sense, is supporting him.
    If she had agreed to him going that is different but she is upset AND he has gone back on his promise to her to celebrate their wedding anniversary. Why doesn’t Jack feel guilty about upsetting his wife/breaking a promise??
    It is good to make sacrifices but only at a cost to ourselves – not the rights of others. I think his ‘sacrifice’ that night was to make his wife happy.

  42. P Feb 26, 2014 5:41 pm 42

    It seems that jack had not considered the rights and duties at play and which come first. Jack also could have considered his intention before acting on impulse. Was he really needed as much as he thought? or was this from his imperious self tricking him to boost his pride by thinking others can not do the same work and so many people need him?
    It is natural for Kelly to get upset but maybe reflecting on how to deal with the situation in a positive way, she would have been more helpful to Jack and her own self knowledge.

  43. R.Z Feb 26, 2014 7:49 pm 43

    With good planning and consideration Jack could have helped at the shelter and kept his wife happy. Instead of letting his wife do all the work and then change his mind, Jack could have talked to his wife in advance, acknowledge their anniversary, and come up with a makeup plan for their anniversary….I think Jack acted somehow selfishly, he decided something and left his wife to accept the situation. If he had thought about his wife’s right, then there was a lot of ways to both help at the shelter and not trample his wife’s right.

  44. Pourya Feb 26, 2014 7:56 pm 44

    As already mentioned in other comments there were plenty of ways he could do the charity work without making his wife upset: By talking to her about it, by taking her with himself on that specific night or by having a brief dinner and being available for the charity work after. But maybe making the right in-vivo decision required more skills and experience than he had.

  45. Linda Feb 26, 2014 9:18 pm 45

    I am not sure about the nature of the energy flux that made Jack change his mind at the last minute and stay late for work that winter night. It may or may not have been as harmful to him as the energy flux of his imperious self. But I am pretty sure that Kelly shouldn’t have cooked! Cooking on such occasions is never a good idea especially when you have such a demanding job like Kelly. I don’t know if it’s the media, society pressure, or is it a real need to celebrate anniversaries in a certain way. I think hadn’t she cooked, and had she lowered her expectation about anniversary celebration, the situation wouldn’t have become so tense to the point of making Jack leave the apartment.

  46. Said Feb 27, 2014 1:02 am 46

    I think we should have balance in life, and try to live accordingly.

  47. LD Feb 27, 2014 10:15 pm 47

    The rights of Jack’s spouse should take precedence over the rights of others in the general public. He should have celebrated his anniversary with his wife as it was very important to her.

  48. Maz Feb 27, 2014 11:41 pm 48

    I think Jack should examine the reason he would think anyone needs him. If he wants to carry out an altruistic act as a duty then his intention has to be to do it for His satisfaction. Once Jack realises that nobody truly needs Jack and he is the one who needs the opportunity to develop, he will be able to work out if he should have gone out on the night of his anniversary or not. It doesn’t seem right that he is late home every night when Kelly has a demanding schedule, on top of which he let her down on a day when she had gone to a lot of effort. His actions appear to belittle the crucial role Kelly plays in Jack’s life and the value of her contribution to the community. Just because Kelly is not doing charity work it does not mean what she does is of less value.  He should consider if his guilty “alarm bell ” is functioning correctly because in the light of the fact that his colleagues had it covered and the trouble his wife had gone to, it seems strange that he did not feel guilty about leaving her. I think that his wife has rights which should take priority to the rights of others.

  49. David Feb 28, 2014 12:47 am 49

    Interesting scenario.

    I agree with most comments above. If he doesn’t nurture his most important duties first, he won’t be able to nurture others. In this scenario, no catastrophe would have happened to the people he usually (and kindly) helps. Being able to break his wife’s heart and trust like that sends me a few warning signals:

    1. His altruism is perhaps not aimed at divine satisfaction, but rather at satisfying his ego. He, the hero of the poor, runs this stand everyday. Was it perhaps his ego in the disguise of a guilt trip that made him blind to his obligations to his wife?

    2. This would have been a fantastic opportunity for his friends to practice altruism. Could it have been a form of jealousy, or feeling of possession, that caused him not to introduce his friends to this wonderful habit?

    3. For many couples, anniversaries are far too important to forget/neglect, so these types of acts can ruin relationships. Is he trying to make a point to his wife, or perhaps even bolster to her with a pseudo-spiritual exterior, that he cares *that much* about this altruistic obligation compared to her?

    Here is to all the readers of this site: Wishing us all a sounder reason, so that we can better prioritize between our spiritual and material obligations. 🙂

  50. Toronto Feb 28, 2014 1:31 am 50

    He should have planned it better but I think the rights of his wife take priority in that situation. In general, I think planning and being organized helps us both in our material and spiritual life.

  51. Photon Feb 28, 2014 5:05 am 51

    It is hard to judge exactly unless we are in Jack’s shoes. But since this is an opinion survey, I believe his Wife should take precedence as “charity starts at home”. And “charity” does not necessarily mean support with money, but emotional support is also a way of helping out. So based on the limited information, I’ll stick with the time-tested wisdom of “charity starts at home”. In such a scenario, I would most likely apologize to my wife and seek her forgiveness.

  52. YE Feb 28, 2014 7:37 pm 52

    I think Jack should have stayed home with his wife that night especially considering that he’s been spending countless hours volunteering and he’s been coming home late every night.
    Bahram Elahi mentions some conditions for practicing altruism in this interview: http://www.e-ostadelahi.com/eoe-en/altruism-an-interview-with-bahram-elahi-m-d/
    One of the conditions he mentions is that “We should behave in a contextually appropriate and balanced manner. For example, when we are about to help someone, we should take into account our own situation and the means at our disposal, while trying not to infringe on the rights of those who depend on us or to inflict any undue harm or strain on others”.
    He additionally explains that “those who commit themselves to improving the living conditions of their fellow beings or defending animals from harm are obviously performing altruistic actions, as we understand them here. In the practice of altruism, however, helping those with whom we are close or in daily contact, such as our spouses, children, parents, neighbors, etc., takes precedence. Thus, acts such as placing ourselves in the position of our spouses to better support them, taking it upon ourselves to lighten their load, or remaining faithful and not betraying them are of paramount importance”.

  53. Nikki Mar 01, 2014 1:18 am 53

    Like some have already mentioned, it’s important to see whose right takes precedence over others while also analyzing the specific situation one is facing. In this scenario in particular, it’s the couple’s anniversary and despite having had a tiring work day, Kelly still took the time to acknowledge this special occasion by preparing dinner. Had Jack been more cognizant of his spouse’s rights and feelings – which he did to a certain extent since he had his colleagues cover for him – then he would have structured his day (and his thought processes!) differently. Being altruistic, generous, and helpful are virtuous traits, but not for the price of trampling over the rights of your loved ones. Also, I think it’s sometimes more difficult to be sincerely altruistic towards people closest to us because we tend to underestimate their feelings…

  54. Kaylahaam Mar 01, 2014 10:28 pm 54

    While choosing response c), I was guided by my personal position that has arisen as a reaction to the proposed situation, namely:
    In my opinion, since the wife should share her husband’s outlook and his aspirations (of course, if they do not contradict ethical and moral principles), she should support his decision to continue helping the poor. Moreover, I believe that she could join him in this which certainly shows a high moral and intellectual development of her husband.
    I think if Nellie joins Charles, she would keep harmony in the family life, would show herself as a kind and selfless woman. Perhaps, being with her husband in such a situation on their wedding anniversary, it would be one of the most memorable moments in their life. Because doing the common thing makes it possible to bring even absolutely strange people together, and such a charity could make this couple indestructible before hardships and deprivations that life brings. Of course, worldly pleasures can not be put in a row with noble acts.
    On his part, Charles could have invited Nelly to share this evening with him, his words of love and perhaps even a small prefab gift as a sign of attention or a surprise. Then, perhaps, such a conflict could have been avoided.

  55. k Mar 02, 2014 12:11 am 55

    I voted “e” like most people, but I also agree – like David in comment 49 -with most comments above.
    When I voted I simply did not think of “none of the above” as an option.

  56. Saga Mar 02, 2014 2:08 am 56

    It seems like he’s having a materialistic view of the whole situation where the number of people is the most important criteria.

  57. Peter Mar 02, 2014 9:01 pm 57

    This comment is about priorities. I have a friend who has two children. Their mother left him, however, and so he now spends as much time as he can, visiting the two children perhaps twice a month in a town some five hours’ train ride away. He lives where he currently works. He has promising business opportunities in another country but is reluctant to leave his current abode for fearing of seeing the children even less. He asked me for advice. I suggested that his first priority was to himself and that he should live where he needs to be in order to work and to “be himself”. I’m not sure, though: perhaps being nearer the children is more important. I wonder what others think?

  58. gh Mar 03, 2014 12:47 pm 58

    While I agree with most comments, to me, there is not enough information in this scenario to make a judgment. Whether the husband did the right thing depends on many factors including but not limited to which one of the acts was more pleasing to his imperious self, the couple’s family and societal cultural values, as well as the nature of the couple’s relationship. This scenario is a reminder though that sometimes we hide behind a seemingly altruistic act only to avoid addressing a weak point in ourselves. This creates a bad situation since our conscience is obviously soothed by our act of altruism, and the weak point continues to exist untouched. However, I believe that if one’s intention is pure, Divine guidance will eventually provide the proper course correction.

  59. Gabi Mar 05, 2014 4:55 am 59

    I also think intention matters, thus trying to answer the question of why Jack wants to go to this charity event is pivotal and to think merely for altruistic reasons probably not the whole story. I guess (based on personal experience) it is because he feels needed and “important” and this boosts his ego. This may explain Jacks motivation and giving in to this impulse while infringing on his wife’s rights is obvioulsy not beneficial (emotionally, spirutally, and for the relationship). Another aspect is pespective-taking, if Jack tries to put himself into his wife’s shoes then again it seems that infringing on her rights would not be the best course of action. As a rule of thumb, when I face a fork, I consider that the path that requires more efforts (basically the one I least like) is usually the healthier one spiritually.

  60. FA Mar 05, 2014 7:16 pm 60

    I think Jack should have spent the night at home (unless it was a matter of life and death for the people who needed the help). He needs to learn about his priorities and the rights of everyone around him.

  61. S Mar 06, 2014 1:34 pm 61

    I have already commented on this subject but I would like to add something else. I have a question. Has this couple completely agreed on the husband dedicating so much time to volunteering? Is the wife ok with him being out so late every night helping others or is she just tolerating that? I think it is important for the married couple to be in harmony and agreement in everything they do, so I would like to find out how she feels about her husband being out of the house that much. Don’t get me wrong, what he is doing is a great humanitarian act, but not if the price is animosity coming from his wife towards him and ruining their marriage.

  62. Jimmy Mar 06, 2014 6:59 pm 62

    In this scenario, I think spending the evening with his wife should have taken precedence over his desire to feel like he was needed. The arrangements were made and cover was provided. When doing charitable acts sometimes there is the pitfall of feeling too good about ourselves.

  63. Craft Mar 10, 2014 4:59 pm 63

    Since it was his anniversary too he could have told his wife how he felt and how he wanted to spend that night. Maybe he could have invited her to join him in doing this good deed as a couple.

  64. Sh Mar 11, 2014 8:45 am 64

    I think that in the social ecosystem, we can consider Kelly and Jack as a unique cell , so most of their charitable activities can be defined as a collaboration between both of them. Given this, they could celebrate their wedding anniversary among the people who need help. It should be kept in mind that without Kelly’s supportive efforts inside the home, It would be hard (maybe impossible) for Jack to participate in charitable activities outside their home. Finally, I voted for choice “e”.

  65. BZ Mar 13, 2014 9:45 am 65

    I think both acts can be altruistic. He can selflessly help others, or selflessly fulfill his duties towards his wife – the latter taking priority, in my opinion.

  66. HR May 06, 2014 12:39 am 66

    This was a strangely similar scenario to mine! It made me really reflect and look at my story in a different light. Whilst I admire what my husband does to help and save others, never the less I have been deeply hurt and sad that it can often be at my expense. This has caused numerous frictions and has left me feel ‘invisible’ and bitter. Having reflected on this article, I realise that I need to remind myself of the number of times that he has been generously there for me and shown his true love and loyalty and patience. I thought of the number of times I have taken his rights or forgotten the priorities of rights and hurt people I care for- the truth is, it is often easier to academically know the answers to such scenarios but to remember and practise the priority of rights is truly an art – for now I am learning to be mindful of my own shortcomings – my husband too has moved forward -he made a huge effort for my birthday instead 2 months later!

  67. Pouria Aug 09, 2014 9:19 am 67

    This is a good question of priorities in life. Priority management needs experience, self-insight and analysis of intention. I think in that case, Jack deviated towards the overabundant demands of his Super Id. The super Id can seek towards extremes, just like the Id.

    Also, we can view this story from the stand point of our duties. Each human being has duties towards God, himself and others. Duties toward others start with own family and then others in terms of priority.

  68. Dana Jan 01, 2015 4:42 am 68

    This exercise was a reminder to me of how easily I forget the “hierarchy” of responisbiities.

  69. AG Jul 30, 2016 5:48 pm 69

    Jack’s situation was not a matter of life and death and he had his colleagues cover for him. So, the cause he was so dedicated to was going to be covered.
    On the other hand, he had an obligation to his wife and needed to show appreciation for her hard work cooking a meal for the celebration that was a once in a year event. I think, he disrespected her rights and didn’t nurture his wife’s emotional needs by deciding not to attend her anniversary dinner. When you live with someone, and more generally in society, you need to follow certain rules and be aware of others’ rights to avoid stepping over them. That was a shortcoming that he didn’t pay attention to. Balance is what we should strive for in order to advance towards perfection. Family affairs, work obligations, and altruism should work hand in hand in a balanced program.

    1. run Aug 03, 2016 5:15 pm 69.1

      Thanks so much for the comment. I liked it very much. It is very import to care about others’ fellings and try to understand them. But it is so easy to forget about it.

  70. Gassari Dec 16, 2019 12:36 am 70

    I see this as a matter of primacy and this issue has been resolved in my mind since childhood. Is giving away all of the food available to us and die of starvation a correct ethical decision? This is of course truly an exaggeration of a hypothetical circumstance only to make a point. I believe the answer is clear.
    We are responsible for our husbands and wives, children, parents… as well as the entire world. But the world is in need of our assistance when there is a failure. We need to, first and foremost, avoid being the failure and therefore in need of help. To fail at home and cause disruptions, in my opinion, is the opposite of what we are trying to learn here. One is first and foremost responsible for the immediate vicinity as a priority.

    The other side of this issue though is the realization of the intensity of different needs for different people within our own circle. There isn’t anything wrong with missing events for noble causes. But missing all events, or missing the most important to our loved ones for that matter, without care is not helping others and is just lack of vision. I have no limits for assisting the needs of others. However, I will never knowingly avoid performing an essential duty of mine that can not be delayed, recaptured… to assist others. Matters of heart are also essential duties.

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