December 26, 2010

Give and Let Give (Or Not! Who’s to Judge?).

The Hard Feat of Simple Generosity

During the holiday season, more focus is given to giving, both friendly and philanthropically, and as annoying as the consumerism and commercialism of Christmas can be, one can often find an air of the joy of giving without recompense.

In his sermon on the mount, Jesus instructs us how to give charitably. He says in Matthew 6:1-4, “Be especially careful when you are trying to be good so that you don’t make a performance out of it. It might be good theater, but the God who made you won’t be applauding. When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself. You’ve seen them in action, I’m sure—’playactors’ I call them— treating prayer meeting and street corner alike as a stage, acting compassionate as long as someone is watching, playing to the crowds. They get applause, true, but that’s all they get. When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively. That is the way your God, who conceived you in love, working behind the scenes, helps you out.” (The Message.)

Does this mean that non-anonymous giving is null in God’s eye? Of course not! Giving openly is often inspiring, and it can draw awareness to a cause, especially if the giving is done by someone famous. I’ve found myself gravitating toward causes that my favorite actor, author, or celeb yogi touted. I’ve also unfortunately found myself feeling condemnatory to charitable personalities that I don’t hold in esteem, labeling them as the “playactors” that Jesus warns against.

Whoa! Get back to your Bible Clare…

In the very same sermon, Jesus goes on in Matthew 7:1-5, “Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults— unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It’s easy to see a smudge on your neighbor’s face and be oblivious to the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, ‘Let me wash your face for you,’ when your own face is distorted by contempt? It’s this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor.” (The Message.)

My UN-favorite actor Brad Pitt gave a bazillion dollars to Katrina victims and went on Oprah about it. Who am I to judge? Well I’m neither God nor am I Brad Pitt, the only ones who know the full evidence on which to judge! No person can know another’s intent. Only God and our selves know our hearts and if our intent is to truly give without reward to ourselves, there is no playacting. If praise or “applause” comes as a result of giving, it doesn’t necessarily mean it was sought that way, and it isn’t up to anyone to judge another’s intent.

A recent Time article, “Why That Rich Guy is Being So Nice to You,” expanded my thoughts on the state of Jesus’ above teachings in our society. The article was based on a study of have’s, have less/nots, and envy. The study, done by a group of Tillburg University psychologists, found two types of envy, benign and malicious. Benign envy is when you are inspired by Brad Pitt’s charity. Malicious envy is feeling negative toward your neighbor because he can afford a better snow blower than you. Benign envy is looking up to the rich guy because he openly gives and. Malicious envy is hating the rich guy because he doesn’t, when the truth is, the “he doesn’t” is “you have no idea and frankly it is none of your business nor does it matter.”

The article goes on to sadly state how the maliciously envied can and often “resurrect” themselves socially by caving under the pressure of the shaming jealousy and “spreading the wealth” loudly for the purpose of, not the love of the giving, but out of guilt. To make friends. To make people stop hating them. “If you are envied [maliciously], you might act more socially afterward because you try to appease those envious people,” said study psychologist Neils van de Ven.

How many of the billionaires in this article have you ever had ill will toward? How many have hated on Bill Gates as a money hungry monopolizer? Or that Facebook kid as just lucky and totally undeserving of his wealth? According to the article, in June of 2010 Bill Gates and Warren Buffet challenged billionaires to give away half of their money, and that 40% have answered that call. Do you wonder how many of those 40% were truly and purely inspired to give from the heart versus answering their inner guilt trip or hoping to add to their likeability factor? It bothers me that my “wonderings” could be grounded, but more-so it bothers me that I wonder in the first place. That I judge.

How sad these feelings of malicious, ungrounded, judgmental envy…and how sad the envied who give in to giving to be liked rather than the pure intent of simply giving. And how sad that I suppose intent on other’s giving. Maybe if everyone started assuming pure intent, it might actually shift something in the world. What if we thought of our well-off investor neighbor in the same plane of purpose as Mother Theresa? In the very least, it would warm our own hearts that we live next to such a saint!

The above article can be inspiring if you are so moved by millionaires, but it also outlines mindful charitable giving according to one’s own life, ability, and intent. So whatever your giving capacity, (which does NOT necessarily mean monetary!!!) meditate on your intent and “live your part” and let other’s live theirs and know that you don’t have to answer to anyone but yourself and God.

As I study God’s word and apply Jesus’ principles here to my life, I’m trying extra hard to not play-act, to wipe the smudges and sneers off my face, and also to not discredit myself for a mindful intent no matter how “judged” I “feel” (which is often my own ego just making crap up.)

How about you? Do you feel there are people who “owe” more because they “have?” OR who inspire you? What charity or way of giving have you felt connected to?

PS- Karma yoga tanks make great gifts AND support the food shelf! (I am “feeling” no shame in that plug!! Hehe!)

And click on over here to find some joy in fair-trade gift-giving!

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Clare Polencheck  |  Contribution: 5,200