We’ve all seen him; the archetypal narcissistic philanthropist who seems to just volunteer so he can brag about it. He’s wearing his stupid khakis, sporting his stupid tan because he “just came back from Africa” and talking to the stupid girls at the bar who are all googly-eyed for him.
But . . . are my motives always pure? Why do I want to help?
To quote my man Jesus (pronounced the Spanish way – Heysoos!”), “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what your right hand doeth.”
“Uh . . . how the hell can I do something with my right hand and not let my left hand know what its doing?” He’s talking about intent here – not giving to charity just for your pride or make other people think you’re a great person, but giving sincerely to help someone in need. As I prep for my Nicaragua trip a few people have asked me, condescendingly, why I’m doing it. “Is it just so you can feel like you’re doing good, or what?”
Well . . . maybe? Life is bleak, it ends early, and I’d like to feel I’m doing something important. Is that ok? While I agree with Jesus and want to be sincere about my reasons for doing good, I’m here to say that its OK to feel great about yourself for giving.
Because our beliefs and behaviors are not on a one way road.
What I mean is, we all have beliefs and values, and those beliefs are supposed to determine our behaviors on a day to day basis, but it doesn’t work that way. If Becky believes smoking is bad for her but she continues failing when she tries to quit, eventually she will change her beliefs to match her behaviors. Its about self-worth: our minds really, really want a high self worth, so rather than sit there thinking “I’m a shitty person for smoking” day after day, her statement will eventually become “Smoking is bad for me, but I just don’t give a crap!” Belief has changed so that her behavior can continue while maintaining self-worth.
Actually, we all take queues about ourselves based on our actions; we define ourselves by what we do. If I do good at the first baseball game I play in Elementary School I may say to myself, “I am good at sports.” My successful attempt at sports the first time I tried it has just given me a belief about myself, and that belief was verified by others who told me I did a good job. And that’s the way it works with the d-bag at the bar too. He may be exploiting charity to get women and approval . . . but that’s his choice. And if some celebrity-since-birth decides it’d be “cool” and “helpful” if she gave a few million to a charity or adopted an African child and just wants to do it to feel good about herself . . . all the power to her. I’ll still think they’re dweebs, but if lives are being saved as a result of some self-righteous person at the bar, he can have that girl’s number and my approval.
And I’ll admit it . . . it feels good to give, and to help, and I like talking about what I’m doing. And that’s totally fine.
So here’s my question . . . why do you give? What is your motivation?
P.S. – I’m an Atheist, and this isn’t a religious blog . . . but Jesus still said some great stuff, so I’ll still use it 😛