What makes giving difficult is that it’s giving of myself. Giving of myself to another is always difficult. This is why justifications abound around giving.
What makes giving difficult is it is giving of myself and giving of myself to someone else is always difficult.
I want to talk to you today about giving. Are you a giver? Do you describe yourself as a giver or do you struggle to give? Do you give easy compliments? Are you quick to share money, your time or whatever other assets or talents or gifts that you have?
We’re all inspired by givers, especially when we are the benefactor of a giver. However, it’s much harder for us to give ourselves. And sometimes we just don’t see ourselves as givers. Sometimes we don’t even realize how much we have to give. This itself is a tremendous tragedy when we don’t realize how much we have to give because we all have so much to give.
You see, giving, generally speaking, is a selfless act. Because if I give of myself to someone else, it is selfless. I would actually describe it as holy. And it can be very difficult. And let’s be very clear about why giving can be very difficult. And I say we need to be clear because we can use justifications all the time to hide behind what makes giving truly difficult. What makes giving difficult is it is giving of myself. And giving of myself to someone else is always difficult. That is something which is hard.
So when someone comes to me and tells me that they are starting a nonprofit just like mine, they are a budding start‑up Rabbi and they’re raising money. Right, I can always justify not supporting them by saying, look, hey, I’m doing the exact same thing as you and I have to raise money every single day as well, what’s the point of me giving you money? Or, I can say, we all have something to give. And, therefore, I am going to give this person to support them, to show them that what they’re doing is good, is important, and I want to support what they’re doing. And so I actually try to give them relatively generously so that they see that I’m not only just giving them but I’m extending myself to them. Because giving in and of itself is, generally speaking, a selfless, holy act. That’s not true 100 percent of the time but that is usually true.
So I want to break down giving into a number of categories and my hope is that in going through these categories, we can see the process that we can go through as individuals in growing as a giver and moving forward in our mindset as a giver.
There’s no question that certain times giving can be destructive. That’s like when we spoil our kids or when we give someone money and we know that they’re going to use it in a self‑destructive way. No question about that. And if we know, we can determine that a certain situation is such, then we definitely should not be giving. And this teaches us something very important and that is that everything that we do must be led by a perspective, not by our feelings. If we are natural givers, as some people are, if we follow our emotional nature, we will always give, even when it’s destructive. So we always need to be led by a perspective. And the perspective is that when giving is proper, we should give; when it’s destructive, the destructive giving is truly just a small percentage of giving. We like to make it a larger percentage to justify our not giving but it’s actually a very small percentage of our giving opportunities. But when it’s there, we need to use our minds, even if we are givers to control ourselves.
But then there is a second stage of giving and that is when we have an opportunity to give and we don’t give. And the reason why we don’t give is not that we shouldn’t be but because we use a judgment on the other person or situation to justify why we shouldn’t give. In other words, we are so entrenched in not giving it’s so difficult for us that we find every single excuse why we shouldn’t give. So we convince ourselves that the other doesn’t deserve it, that they need to take more responsibility, why should I give, someone else can give, et cetera. And in those situations, we need to realize what is going on within us. We need to realize that we are justifying not giving instead of doing what we should be doing, which is giving. There’s another stage above that and that is giving begrudgingly. That’s when we know we should give and we are clear that we should give, our head is very clear but our heart is caught up in some other place. Our heart hasn’t caught up with our mind and so we emotionally don’t want to give. And, thank God, we listen to our head and we give. But we give begrudgingly because we’re still upset about it, we wish the person hadn’t asked us, we wish we hadn’t bumped into them or whatever that circumstance is. But we did and we give, we know it’s the right thing to do. But it’s a very difficult thing for us to do. That’s fine. If we’re clear about that, that’s actually an advanced level for us to at least be aware of the fact that I know I did the right thing and I know my heart is not yet in the right place and that can give us the ability to aspire to get to a better place, to align our heart with our mind a little bit more.
And that is the next level. The next level is when we learn to give generously. That means our heart has caught up with our mind. And not only do we understand why we should be giving, but we actually feel to give. And that’s when we can give generously with a full heart, where we can make the person, the recipient, the one who we are giving feels so good because we demonstrate to them how much we value the need that there is and that we are happy to give, we are happy to support. And that’s very very powerful.
There’s actually one more level of giving, which is even higher than giving generously. And this is very advanced and this is giving compassionately. Giving compassionately is when the other person doesn’t deserve to be given. They truly don’t deserve to be given. However, we know that if we show them compassion, even though they don’t deserve and say, look, I know you don’t deserve this but I’m going to support you anyway, we may not verbalize that but we feel in our hearts that this person doesn’t really deserve it but we want to extend ourselves to them because we know by extending ourselves and showing them compassion that in itself will uplift them. And that will actually help them get to a better place. That is giving with compassion. And so that’s when the person doesn’t even necessarily deserve, but we go beyond the judgment of whether the person deserves or not and we say, but this person needs a loving arm around them, they need to feel the compassion, the embracing of another human being. And we give them and that transforms them.
And I’m sharing all of this so that the next time you have a situation where you can give, you should truly ask yourself if you are thinking, you’re still deliberating should I be giving or not, you should ask yourself, why am I deliberating? What is my conflict? Is it a conflict because I really don’t know if it is healthy for me to give to this situation? Or is it that my heart has not yet caught up with my mind? And even if it’s a situation where you decided not to give, ask yourself, even though you chose not to give, why did you truly decide not to give? Was it because you don’t want to give? Or is it truly because it’s an unhealthy situation which doesn’t warrant giving?
Answering these questions is the way we transform our inner being and we become more selfless and holy people and greater givers.