Guilt vs Sacrifice

Lots of people are offended by the ideas of Ayn Rand. I don’t pretend to know or defend them in detail, but one of the main thrusts of her work is that no one should be guilted into doing or becoming what others want instead of what you want.

There’s a way to take this that seems bad. The idea of self-sacrifice is core to Christianity, and because Christianity has transformed the whole world, to nearly all cultures and values. To never act to aid another at personal cost would be to forgo the beauty and power of sacrifice.

But that’s not the lesson I take from Rand. I think pity and altruism are used as weapons of evil more often than they motivate good. Unlike other passions like greed or anger, they rarely come under scrutiny or suffer blame. This makes them dangerous.

Feeling bad for someone can cause you to stop doing good or start doing bad. It can cause you to make the world uglier for fear that beauty might offend them. It’s even worse when you feel bad for a Theoretical Person, or some group or aggregate, because they can never be satisfied.

“Maybe we should curb this goodness/beauty/excellence/truth/joy because I can imagine people who might feel bad in its presence.” This is a terrible and corrosive sentiment, slowly turning the world to darkness.

Taking action to help another person out of care for them is wonderful. Ceasing to do good out of guilt for the potential offense it might cause another person is not.