Giving more than you get
Doing good pays off sometimes, and that messes with our motivations. Call it a paradox, but sometimes I’m benevolent for selfish reasons.
I donate clothes and appliances to a charity, mostly because I want to free up some closet space.
I bring canned goods for the food drive at the elementary school, because I don’t want to be the parent whose kid shows up without something for the collection.
I give money to organizations doing good in the world, in part because I like thinking I’m the kind of person who does that.
Even talking to someone who is having a bad day, I not only want to be kind, I want them to feel that I’m a kind person, and think highly of me.
We all have mixed motivations when doing good. We consider whether to do a good thing, and we think about what’s in it for us, at the same time we’re thinking about the needs of people we may be helping.
This is true of everyone; none of us is able to live a life of good works, completely free of our own self-interest. It’s human nature, so we don’t need to beat ourselves up about it.
We can and should do good for others that goes beyond the benefits we receive in the process.
Yes, I sometimes get acknowledged and applauded for doing service work. I should do way more than that, though. I should do service work that I never get thanked or congratulated for.
Yes, some of the things I give away are things that I didn’t want anyway, and I’m glad to be rid of them. I should give more than that. I should give away possessions that I do actually want, if someone else needs them more than I do.
Yes, I am kind to people who I enjoy talking to and spending time with. I should also be kind to people even when I find them tiresome or irritating.
Yes, I feel good for giving money to a worthy cause. But I should give enough money that it also hurts, because it’s an actual sacrifice that takes a meaningful bite out of my budget.
This kind of giving is real generosity, and we are all capable of it.
It's a fact that all people have selfish impulses. Our universal potential for going beyond our selfishness is also a fact.
The Table is a Christian Church in Davenport, Iowa, where transformation is happening:
from greed toward generosity
from violence toward peacemaking
from isolation toward neighborliness
from fear toward faith