Am I a Selfish Giver?

Giving Kind Selfish Giving


Remember that time you donated a sweater to that clothing drive? Or the time you brought soup to your sick friend? Why did you do it? Did you give because you wanted to help someone? Maybe that’s why you said you gave.  But didn’t giving also make you feel good? Didn’t donating a sweater making you feel righteous? Didn’t bringing soup to your friend reassure your confidence that you are in fact a good friend? And won’t your sick friend now owe you a favor in return?

The truth is, as I see it, that more often than not when we give, we get something in return. Sometimes it’s the pride that we helped out in a cause, and sometimes it’s bragging rights that we were there to help. Sometimes giving is actually selfish. When my friend needed a job after college, and was looking in several cities, did I help find her jobs in New York so she could find work faster? Or did I do it to make sure she would stay in New York, close to me? Was I really giving her my time and effort to make sure she was better off, or was I doing it to make sure I was better off, keeping my best friend close by?

Do you ever give to your friends to keep them close? Maybe not physically close, but emotionally. Or do you ever give to them so they will want to give back? Or do you truly give because you love them?

I think sometimes it is hard to figure out why I give when I do. Am I really thinking about what is best for the other person, or am I thinking of what is best for me? Am I really helping my friend by helping her find a job in New York, when maybe the best place for her is San Francisco? Maybe it’s Chicago. Or maybe it’s simply just not New York.

I hope I can learn to be a more selfless giver. I wonder how removing myself from my giving will change the way I give. 

1 comment
  1. So, this is another one of the those touchpoints that reach back to Grandma. I’ve no doubt your dad raised this thinking already, but I’ll put a point on it. Grandma and I have been talking about this since I was a kid (yes, we still discuss it, when I forget that she’s gone). During my teens we discussed it alot, partly because parsing teenage motivations can be a prickly bush, and partly because we just liked talking about prickly bushes. Bottom line: there is no such thing as altruism. Bottom line: there is no such thing as an unselfish act. Categorical. No exceptions. But what’s important is this: acts may be (ARE) committed because it suits the needswantsdesireswhathaveyou of the actor. BUT, not all acts derive from an unalloyed selfishness. That is, for some people (you being one of them), what suits the actor is to please those they love. For some people, their happiness is dependent on knowing that those they lovevaluecherish are cared for, are happy, are safeguarded. Sure, this is selfish, but for a selfishness to be dependent on the wellbeing of others elevates that selfishness to a purer plane (and surely a more responsible plane). Such conduct requires that the actor view his needswantsdesires through the lens of others; the actor contemplates his act as it influences others, and this in turn so influences the actor. A debate Grandma and I carried on til she died was the question of whether it was worse for one to be Amoral – that is, to act completely without knowledge or regard or consciousness that what one is doing is wrong (and so does harm) or whether it is worse to be Immoral – that is, to act badly, knowing well the rules of right and wrong but defiantly flouting them regardless. What do you think? I don’t know the right answer. It’s a very tough question. But Grandma knew.

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