Last time we talked about help that harms the recipient. Today we will talk about help that harms us, the giver. Sometimes outside influences result in harmful helping, but sometimes we are the culprits. Here are a few indicators that our generosity might be harming ourselves.
1. We feel guilty for not giving
When we give out of a sense of guilt, we are giving for the wrong reason. We aren’t giving for the recipient. Instead we are giving for our own benefit. Our guilt may be alleviated for a while, but soon it returns. No matter how much we give, we wonder if it’s enough.
We harm ourselves by robbing us the joy of genuine generosity motivated by love and concern for the recipient. Over time we may build a resentment around our giving and around its recipients.
2. We are in need because we were generous
This situation often stems from a belief that we are morally obligated to help based on the need regardless of our ability to give. So we give whenever we encounter a need. We end up giving too much because there is so much need (or perceived need) out there. We let our house go into foreclosure because we let the renters in our rental property live rent free. We file bankruptcy because we helped our friends rather than paying our bills.
We harm ourselves by giving what we really don’t have to give. In our generosity, both parties need to come out ahead or it’s detrimental giving.
3. The reason for our giving is to look good.
If we are giving so that we will look good, our giving is just a manipulation. There is no integrity or genuineness in the giving. Our generosity is tainted by ulterior motives that receivers often sense. The receivers of our generosity then feel used, abused and resentful rather than grateful for the gift.
This type tainted giving also robs us of the joy of genuine giving for something we care about.
4. Our giving is not voluntary
If our giving is done because of any outside coercion, we are giving because someone else wants us to give not because we want to give. There is no generosity going on here. Instead our gift is really being taken from us.
At its basest form, this is theft. Instead of being generous with their own resources, they are attempting to be generous with resources they don’t have – our resources.
With this type of giving, we aren’t able to give to causes we care about because instead our resources were redirected to something else. For example, when the government taxes us so they can give to others, we are less able to let our own values direct our generosity.
What about you? What do you use to decide to give to a cause?