Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Giving In Secret

For the last week the world has been united in compassion for Haiti. Tragedy is a powerful bonding agent. It touches our hearts and gives us moments of understanding that we are all One. In those moments, love flows through conflict, through discrimination, through resistance. These moments become more than unfortunate and painful events - they are not punishment from God for misdeeds - rather, they are opportunties to renew the love in our hearts. On a daily basis and without those strong reminders, we have a harder time staying in that place of compassion.

Many people and organizations become moved to help, to give, to send love and prayers, which is a great thing. However, there is an element of grandstanding that can also occur in an event of this magnitude, as people use it as an opportunity to get notoriety for themselves or their groups. I want to be careful not to sound too critical here. As Aesop said, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted." But I also want to remind that gifts given quietly from the heart may have more impact on our souls - because they are void of ego. It can be difficult to keep ego out of the equation, and the need or desire to publicize what is given can be an indicator of where we are. If we can refrain from marketing what we have given, then it tells us that the gifts are from the heart and for the sake of giving, not for receiving recognition.

When we give and broadcast it, there is something lost. Our gifts become much more meaningful and soulfully rewarding when they are quiet, not subject to examination by others, not subject to our ego's need for boasting, not subject to gaining publicity or public accolades. I think that is what Jesus was saying in this passage that he Bible credits to him:

2"So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full.

3"But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,

4so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.
(Matthew 6: 2-4)

I don't think Jesus was saying that it was entirely bad to give publicly, but that it is not the best and purest way to give, and does not indicate that there is full communion with God. While we benefit from giving either way, the need to be noticed for it speaks of a need to impress, of an inner feeling of being unworthy and the need to earn acceptance. There is a fine line between charity for charity's sake and charity that is partly for pride's sake; the pride tarnishes the beauty of the charity. Therein lies the root of our soul's troubles. That need serves as a sign that we are still not understanding that God thinks we are perfect and wonderful, and only our negative thoughts about ourselves keep us from Him. So that need to tell everyone can serve as an indicator or gauge of where we are spiritually - as individuals, as a church or other group.

Many might say that giving publicly helps awareness and encourages others to give, but even that suggests a competition or underlying guilt. Certainly with our media coverage, the levels of giving would be well known whether or not they are credited by name. I encourage you to increase your charity to others...whether it be through money, through time, through a commitment to go out each day and be a light to others by your ways. But try to do it quietly, where you will know that ego is not involved in it; then you will know your own sincerity. It simply allows you a level of soulful connection with God, not man, that can be liberating. It is an opportunity to live in the world but not of it.

God Bless Haiti - and let us thank the people of Haiti for opening our hearts through their difficulties and their courage in adversity.


Marion said...

Sherri, thank you for this post. I wondered why I felt uncomfortable when people told me what they had done for Haiti, or any other disaster, for that matter. And it is because of the recognition they wanted. And I always wondered why they NEEDED that recognition.

I like giving in secret. Thank you.

Sherri said...

I know what you mean, Marion...sometimes we recognize the vibration of the intent (as one that it about recognition) and it makes us feel uneasy. Giving is a good thing, but it carries with it a shadow when ego gets mixed in. That also keeps it from blessing the giver on a core, soulful level - the deeper level that is pure and void of ego.

Dana Lisa said...

So true! I have been watching some people who admittedly do a lot for their communities go above and beyond to make sure everyone knows how hard they are working on behalf of Haiti. Their intentions are good but it is shadowed by the ego, which can cause problems if they don't get the recognition or support they feel they need or deserve. Thanks for your honest and enlightening commentary. I quoted some of it on my Facebook page. :)

Sherri said...

Thank, Dana!