When an act of charity becomes business

If I do good, it will come back to me in unexpected ways. No. It won’t. The streets are full of homeless bodies and souls that have done good, but it wasn’t returned. Or are we suggesting that those that are in a bad state have done no good? This transactional view of life is becoming more popular each day, and it does nothing good for the one that holds this view.

We do good because we want others to experience less hardship than we did, not because we want to be repaid in some way with another good. Well, at least that is why we should be doing good. Not to earn a reward, but to reduce someone else’s pain or suffering, or simply to enrich their life. If enough people do this, inevitably it will lead to someone doing good for you as they seek to enrich your life out of sincerity, or they may wish to alleviate your burden because they know what it is like to be in a similar position when they may have had less. But that is something that we have no control over. The way that cycle of paying it forward plays out is entirely dependent on the generosity of every soul involved in that cycle. It is not business. It is not a tit-for-tat exchange of deeds. The moment it becomes an expectation of receiving something in return for what you do, you are transacting for gain. That is not charity, nor is it generosity. It is self-serving.

The selfish motivations that prompts us to give charity so that we can be seen as charitable, or doing good so that we can be seen as benevolent is nothing more than food for the ego, not for the soul. And it’s a poisonous meal as well. Eventually we will find ourselves measuring the value of people in our lives based on what they do for us, rather than how they enrich our lives. The sad part is that most don’t know the difference.

When someone enriches your life, they don’t necessarily contribute directly to your personal needs, but they make a meaningful contribution to how you experience your world. A simple example would be a spouse or family member that expresses love and appreciation for your children. That is not something that replaces your contribution to your children, but it is something that improves your child’s self-worth. That in turn improves the quality of life that you have with them. Although their act of kindness was not directed at you, it enriched your life, so you should not have reason to withhold kindness from them.

The irony is that the ones that perpetuate this myth about the universe returning the good that you do are the same ones that would typically believe that integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is looking. While that may be true about the definition of integrity, it loses its authenticity when we find reason to shout out to the world how much integrity we have.

One lesson that has served me well in life is that you should always be weary of someone that finds every gap to mention their own virtues. They are looking for validation, and people that require validation that badly almost always compromise principles and values to get it. Such people will not think twice about betraying your trust or confidence if it means getting that validation from others. Choose your company carefully.

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