Energetically and spiritually we are connected to one another. So why would bestowing our time, efforts or money on others be counterproductive? It’s because sometimes we act without the right intention, giving expecting to receive. In those times, we’re left feeling empty and obstruct our spiritual growth.
I’d never really thought about my motivation behind my personal acts of charity. I merely believed that if someone or a group needed help and I could provide that assistance, I would. After all, that’s what “good” people do, don’t they?
In this past year, though, I realized that helping others had become a burden in an at-times overwhelming life. It took a while to realize it was because my reasons for doing so weren’t pure. I found this out after testing myself by providing assistance semi-anonymously (it was known I was helping, but not by how much) in a particular situation. I discovered I really wanted certain people to know what I’d done. I craved a pat on the back in recognition of how nice I was. However, I stuck with my plan and didn’t brag. I recalled Matthew 6 about how we’re not to practice our righteousness in front of others for the purpose of being seen.
In addition, when I volunteered, I found myself griping before the event about my lack of time and asking why I’d committed myself to the task. When Ken offered to assist, his willingness to help showed me that it wasn’t the act of giving that bothered me. It was that I’d agreed to help so that someone would validate my act of kindness. I wanted reinforcement that I was worthy.
I’d made giving all about myself. Not the person in need.
Ironically, it was only after I disregarded my desires and gave fully that I was filled with satisfaction.
Many faiths espouse the necessity of giving without feeding the ego. The Bible in 2 Corinthians 9:7 reads, “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Buddha taught that when we give to others without expectation of reward, we practice releasing greed and “self-clinging.”* Kabbalah extols the importance of giving without intention of receiving as a necessary step in achieving spiritual growth.
Giving joyfully is a key to attaining a closer relationship with the Universal Power. I believe God uses us to answer others’ prayers and one of the ways this happens is through our ability to empathize and take positive action. (see post)
Giving is meant to be selfless. Opening up and making ourselves available to each other allows the Most Divine to work through us.
If you’re feeling burdened by the thought of helping others, ask yourself:
- Why am I really doing this? Is it to glorify the Supreme Being? Am I insecure and seeking approval from others? Or, do I feel like I have to do it to be a “good” person.
- Am I secretly regretting my volunteerism, wanting to receive instead of to give?
- Am I giving in a way that showcases my activity to others? Could I do a good act without anyone knowing I did it?