Yes you read that right. The title really is “The Problems with Giving.” So what’s wrong with giving? Well giving in itself isn’t wrong. But sometimes giving does more harm than good. In these cases, giving is a problem, and it’s wrong.
Often you can tell giving is wrong when it is putting the giver at financial risk. We’ve seen plenty of cases where someone or a family is in a financial mess while they’re still being incredibly generous to someone else in need. When your giving exceeds your capacity to give, that is indicative that there is a problem with the giving.
There are two examples of wrong giving I’d like to explore. The first one is when the giving interrupts the flow of natural consequences.
Giving is wrong when it blocks natural consequences
When giving interrupts the flow of natural consequences, you are blocking a very important natural law. The book, Boundaries by Dr Cloud & Dr Townsend, calls this law, The Law of Sowing and Reaping. When a person is acting irresponsibly, they don’t experience this law if you step in and reap the consequences for them.
Suzie spends all her money at the local bar hanging out with friends, and discovers she doesn’t have money for gas to get to work. So Barbara finds herself paying for Suzie’s car gas every month or so. Barbara thinks she’s helping her friend Suzie, but she’s not. Barbara is blocking the law of sowing and reaping, and Suzie never changes.
In this case, you are not helping the person. In fact, you are harming them.
The person you think you are helping isn’t given the opportunity to learn that the there’s a connection between their action and the results. They get used to and come to rely on people stepping in and covering for their irresponsibility.
Giving is wrong when it’s done out of obligation
The second case of wrong giving is giving out of guilt. Unfortunately too many non-profit and charitable organizations pull the “guilt” card to increase contributions. And even worse is that many charitable organizations don’t need to pull the “guilt” card. All they have to do is ask for a donation, and we pull the “guilt” card for them.
Sometimes we give to assauge our guilt. Sometimes it’s just a feeling that if we were a good person, we would be giving. Then we feel guilty that maybe we’re not giving enough. Other reasons we give similar to guilt are a need for approval, fear of anger or loss of love, or a sense that we need to payback a kindness (a self imposed debt).
In each of these cases there is an integrity issue. We don’t really want to give, but we give anyway. Our inside “no” doesn’t match our spoken “yes”. This isn’t true giving. True giving doesn’t harm the giver. True giving is where our spoken “yes” matches our inside “yes”, and we can give freely just because we want to – not out of some sense of obligation.
I have felt like I should give more. Looking back on it the focus was wrongly on the action of giving itself rather that on my heart where it should have been. This created a sense of guilt around giving – or rather not giving enough.
Now we love giving when we’re able, and we encourage our clients to give and to get in a position to be incredibly generous. But we want the giving to be good giving. So we encourage our clients (and now you) to start thinking about their dreams and aspirations so that their giving and their heart are in the same place.
What about you? When have you given and it turned out to be wrong? When have you given just because you wanted to and it was right? How did each of these make you feel?