The Giving Principle Demonstrating the Heart of a Leader
We can only develop personal empathy for others when we personally identify with their pain. Whether from a sincere heart or not, one of Bill Clinton’s most appreciated comments was, “I feel your pain.” That short sentence resonated with millions of Americans. People hold their money back from others because they’ve forgotten what it felt like to be without.
Generous giving is more about who you are than how much you have. It’s a skill that bespeaks the nature of your inner compassion.
Don’t misunderstand me here—there is nothing inherently wrong with wealth. We have been blessed far more than we deserve, and I am thankful. But wealth can become a most seductive mistress. It has a way of making a person feel better than others, more worthy. But wealth is rarely sufficient. How many rich people do you know who are never satisfied? There is always a striving for that next million when they promise themselves they’ll finally be satisfied.
Various research and studies have shown the same thing: many rich people aren’t very happy people. I’m convinced that wealthy people are frequently unhappy because they’re selfish and self-absorbed…convinced that happiness will come with the next acquisition. This is the way we anesthetize our pain. We become convinced that one more car, a new suit, or a better vacation will make us happy. So, we indulge in the luxury, and sure enough—we are happy. For a little while. Then we revert back. And the cycle begins again.
Think about it. If more stuff and more money really equal happiness…then why aren’t the happiest families in America all living in Hollywood?
So, How Does Giving Get Done?
The best giving is done in secret. When a person makes a show of their giving, it becomes about their ego and pride. Now I’m not against fundraisers and the like. However, there is a spirit of giving that is at its best when the gift is given from the heart and below the radar.
I believe giving should play out on two levels: institutional and spur-of-the-moment.
Institutional giving is the planned giving we should all do. This includes donations to our churches, charities, and the like. These gifts should be part of our annual planning. There are three important principles here:
1. This is giving that is preplanned. This is a predetermined amount of money that is committed even before we get it. And this is also the extra money we give as a percentage of windfalls like a big sale or a good stock market return. This money is given on a dependable, ongoing, committed, and sacrificial basis.
2. This is money that we give joyfully and not under a feeling of compulsion. Honestly, this has been hard for me at times. But I’ve learned that the more I practice it and the more I see other people helped by my giving, the easier it gets.
3. Give as you have been given. Don’t feel like you have to fix the world. You can’t. While I encourage sacrificial giving, don’t go to wild extremes that impoverish your own family. No one would expect an employee earning $60,000 to give as much as the CEO should be giving.
Spur-of-the-moment giving is just that. It’s the money we give when we see a
need before us. My friend Bob Nash has built several successful businesses and done well. But Bob is the opposite of selfish. I know (not from Bob himself) that he is a big institutional giver. In addition, Bob is also a generous spur-of-the-moment giver.
Some friends of mine were on a car trip with Bob recently when he stopped at a traffic light. A disheveled man approached the car. Now honestly, I struggle with these situations, sometimes hesitating to give money to someone I figure will simply spend it on liquor.
But Bob didn’t reason that way. He spent a moment and visited with the man. Then he reached in the backseat and pulled something from a box. It was a Bible with five dollars within its pages. He handed it to the man with a warm smile and drove on.
Bob didn’t assume to be the man’s judge. He simply supplied him with both spiritual and physical provision…and left the rest to God.