Bodhisattvas are individuals who exhibit an unusually strong and instinctive tendency to relinquish their own apparent gain and self-interest in order to help others, even if it requires a great deal of effort or abandonment of their own personal agenda. Sometimes they act with exceptional generosity. Other times they demonstrate great patience, profound wisdom, or unimpeachable moral character and ethical integrity. Sometimes it can be just a little unexpected kindness, helpful word, or a smile that expresses the hidden bodhisattva deep within, coming at precisely the right time and place when one is truly in need of a boost. In every case, they inspire us by the extent to which they apply these qualities for the benefit of others rather than themselves.- Lama Surya Das
Although the self-sacrifice of these bodhisattvas may be illogical from a worldly point of view, it's clearly not pathological—in other words, it doesn't show any signs of coming from sheer madness or any neurotic or psychotic need for approval or self-flagellation. Nor does it stem from codependent, would-be healer behavior or a savior complex, which can lead to burnout, bitterness, and feelings of martyrdom. Instead, these individuals radiate a sense of peace, joy, fulfillment, and naturalness in accomplishing the good things they do. Whatever their external appearance or life situation may be, they seem more deeply in touch with, and empowered by, universal values than their more self-oriented peers are. Doing the right thing is the only reward they need.
Christians sometimes call such people saints or knights, people of honor, and guardian angels. Jews often refer to them as mensches. In every culture, humans consider them heroes, not necessarily in a physically mighty way but certainly in a spiritually effective one. They are the individuals who save us in countless different ways just by being who they are. I'm sure if you take a quiet moment of reflection, you can call to mind special benefactors who have functioned as bodhisattvas in your life. This recalling of benefactors and their selfless kindnesses is a traditional Buddhist practice to help us open up, soften our hearts, cultivate gratitude, and develop lovingkindness for others.