The Intent Behind Your Gift

Giving has been on my mind a lot lately. Actually, it’s been an entirely important part of my life. I have always been an incredibly generous person, giving my money, my time, my energy, and my gifts wherever I am called to serve. It is an important part of my faith to give. And in times of tribulation, I often turn towards asking the Divine to make the road of service more clear to me.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve learned an important lesson, and I wanted to share it with you. The intent with which you give is more important than the gift itself.

Why is it that sometimes we give and our gifts don’t make a difference? Why is it that sometimes we give and give and give until we feel completely depleted, and then we realize that the experience felt more like “being taken from” instead of giving from the heart?

When Giving Doesn’t Work
There was a point in time during my life when I was homeless. I don’t talk much about this experience; I don’t feel like I need to use it to justify anything or use it to make people think my life is anything that it is not. When I was living without a home, I was sitting eating a can of beans. A man, who appeared to be homeless as well, came up to me and asked me for money. I told him that I didn’t have any money, but that I would share my beans with him.

He said, “No, man, sorry. I don’t want your beans.” He proceeded to tell me how he made a good living from asking people for money. It was his “job,” so to speak, to ask people for money and prey upon their pity of him. This was how he earned his living.

A friend had a similar experience. While working in downtown Chicago, she saw a man begging for money who was visibly mentally afflicted. A few weeks later, she saw him up in her neighborhood, far away from the touristy areas downtown, buying food at the grocery store. He was not acting afflicted as he paid for his food. He even had a credit card to pay for his food, and he acted perfectly normal.

We’ve all had the experience of being asked for money by someone we just knew was going to use the money to buy alcohol or drugs. And we’ve all had experiences where friends or family ask us for favors, our money, our time, our energy, and we’ve not have the favors repaid. Or we feel sorry for someone down on their luck, we give to them to help them, and they end up taking advantage of our kindness.

I’ve even had experiences where I’ve been promised payment for my work, given freely above and beyond what was required, and then denied payment for my time, service, and above-and-beyond gift of energy.

And then sometimes people will give a gift and constantly remind you that they gave the gift, making it not feel much like a gift at all. It can often feel like you’re paying for the “gift” over and over again when you’re reminded of it!

Sometimes giving doesn’t always work out very well.

Yet, my faith tells me that I must give and care for my brother. But I don’t feel that it is appropriate to “cast my pearl before swine” and have my time, energy, money, or kindness wasted… or even worse, taken advantage of.

When Giving Keeps Giving
And then there are the stories and experiences that tell me that giving is completely magical.

There have been situations when I’ve given, and it has been magnified. A woman I know gave her last $20 to someone, and it was returned to her the next day through another source.

I’ve given money to people and had it come back to me in other ways. I’ve bought meals for people who were begging, I’ve bought gas for people, I’ve paid tolls for the car behind me. Those experiences change my world and my perspective in ways I cannot fully explain.

Giving is a huge part of who I am.

So where is the distinction? Why does giving sometimes work out wonderfully and other times create disasters of epic proportions?

Reasons for Giving
I have a theory that the reasons behind our gift are more important than the gift itself. The physical manifestation of the gift – food, money, time – doesn’t matter as much as the spiritual intention behind the gift. When you give, the belief and intention that you hold in your heart is what you are creating.

Think about this.

  • Are you giving a gift because you need it returned 10-fold?
  • Are you giving a gift because you need attention for it?
  • Are you giving a gift because you need glorification?
  • Are you giving because you feel like you have to?
  • Are you giving a gift because you feel sorry for someone?

Or are you giving because you feel inspired? Are you giving freely from a willing heart? Are you giving with faith?

Giving because you feel sorry or pity is the worst. When you give from this place, you are giving a reinforcement of the situation that makes you feel sorry for that person. The experience of feeling sorry for that person will come back to you tenfold. You do no good giving because you feel sorry for someone.

Jesus did not heal because he felt sorry for people. Jesus healed because he could see the Divine within that person, he could see that person fully well, and he held true to his faith. He did not heal because He had to or needed to. He did not heal because He wanted glorification or attention.

The intent and belief behind your gift is more important than the gift itself.

If you are giving from a place of need, you create more need. If you are giving because you want attention, you’ll get attention all right… but not necessarily the attention you were looking for.

If you give freely, lovingly, with no attachment to outcome, then you are giving with the intent of healing, growth, and love. If you give with the intent of bringing Spirit, inspiration, and love into this world, you will have that magnified. And this energy is what will come back to you. If you give knowing and intending to help someone into a better situation, this comes back to you.

If you choose to give, see your physical gift as a manifestation of your truest intent. Set your intention in the right place, that the highest good will come from your gift, that the will of the Divine is at play, and that healing, growth, and love can and will occur.

Think about the woman who gave away her last $20. Her gift came back to her in the exact amount the next day. But think about what was behind that gift. She gave it with faith that it would come back, and it did. But the gift… it keeps giving. It is giving to you today as a gift of a story of inspiration. The intent behind the gift itself was — and is to this day — more important than the gift of the money.

The Real Power of Giving
When you are in the place where you are giving from your willing heart, when you are giving free of attachment to outcome, with no thought of how it makes you look to others, you know. There is a feeling that comes through giving, a feeling where you begin to allow miracles happen for yourself and for others. When giving comes from that place, it bridges the place between Spirit and physical.

When my friend was in downtown Chicago, she saw many people begging on the streets. Her desire and need to give was being triggered, but her cynicism was high. Instead of giving money, she began giving energy. She would select individuals and “give” them something other than money. She would imagine them happy, joyful, laughing, and then imagine a ball of light coming from her to that person. It wasn’t always homeless people that she would give this to, it was entirely random and based entirely on the in-the-moment inspiration she felt. Whether or not the “gift” she gave made a difference, we’ll never know. But it made an impression on her.

Think about the gift of prayer, the gift of reiki, the gift of goodwill, the gift of intent, belief, faith. There is no way that you can know where it goes, what it does when it gets there, or what it will do when it is returned to you tenfold.

Giving in the Now
When you are presented with a situation that would allow you to give, inspiration is your guide. It takes some experimenting to play with your resistance. There may be opportunities to give and provide miracles for others that right now might look like some of those tell-tale signs of bad giving. But when are these situations really your patterns resisting wonderful opportunities?

The key to out-witting these patterns is experimentation. Sometimes giving a dollar to someone who is going to spend it on alcohol is a dollar lost; sometimes it is a miracle.

Give from the intent of a miracle.

Then, let go. Let go of what you think should happen, what you want to happen, all of your patterns of hope, past experiences, etc. Let go completely. Let go, Let God. Let it be.

Just give in the miraculous now with an intention, and let it be whatever it needs to be.

The power of change is in the now, and change happens when you let go in the now.

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  1. There is a reason why you wrote this on my B-Day!! Thank you for this gift! Much to think on and reflect about. Thank you for sharing this today. 😀

  2. Everytime I went shopping last year I would allways run in to the same guy selling a big issue a magazine sold by the homeless I never took a mag but would allways give him money £5 or £10 each week this went on for months until Christmas when I gave him some money and to my surprise he gave me a Christmas card he was from eastern europe and in the best English he wrote
    Sir thank you for your kindness you have helped me get through a terrible time I hope you have a nice Christmas. I read the card while I had a coffee in a nearby shop I can’t explain how I felt happy sad pleased upset all at the same time. I have never seen him since I look out for him but he’s never around I hope he finally got on top of things and his life is going well I try let my heart guide me where to give it allways seems to get it right Sometimes it’s money or a kind thought love or good energy I follow what feels right at that moment

    1. Martin, that’s a great story. Thank you for sharing it. Sometimes you can never know how your gift is being used. For you to know that you touched someone’s heart and helped them is awesome… and it is a gift that keeps giving as an inspirational story!

  3. Thanks for sharing the beautiful message of giving, I believe that if we all give from our heart and allow the spirit to direct us on when and how to give, the blessing and return may not be for us but for others, we are truly living in a time when we are to love not only through words but through giving.

    Thank you my soul was blessed.

  4. Great post Mark, thankyou for your energy!

    I am inspired by the thought “give from the intent of miracles” That’s such a great and high vibration! That’s god’s greatness “thinking through YOU”. It lifted my energy level so thanks; I think it’s a great way to think when giving. I’m feeling inspired by that!

    Peter Horrill
    Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

    1. Peter! No matter what we do, it is an opportunity to give from the intent of miracles. Even if something feels like a “cost” or a burden, we can find a way to see that as a gift. And I believe we can transmute the experience just by having faith in our intent.

  5. Dear Ones,

    Mark’s message is so true. Giving is a very personal thing and not something that can be judged by others. My spouse has called me a chump when I gave money to those who ask for it but I don’t understand this criticism. I give because its my nature to be giving. I love giving to others, whether its money, something homemade or just a big smile. It’s very enjoyable to give with no expectation of the outcome.

    The idea of doing a good deed every day can help keep giving on your mind. The good deed doesn’t have to be a big thing but it can be huge, if one is so inspired. Being alert for things we can do to help others is a good way to be more present and aware of what is going on around us.

    Now there is sort of a downside to boundless giving. We must be ever alert for how we feel about the other person and not give just because we feel sorry for the other one. Feeling sorry is not the best reason to give, but if we can try to see the situation from an inspired place, or with empathy, it’s better.

    Another thing to look out for is whether the person wants what you are giving. Homeless people for instance can’t usually handle having extra furniture, or pots and pans for instance. Or sometimes we think we are doing good to give large bags of clothes without knowing whether they might fit the receiver. When I am given things that I don’t really need or want, I have no hesitation to pass the items on to a charity.

    It is my belief that giving is a way to fulfill a longing for a peaceful and gentle life.

    Many Blessings,

    1. Thank you Carole! I love the idea of doing one good deed every day. And the distinctions of giving to fulfill need is a great one.

  6. I absolutely love the “give with the intent of miracles!”

    I have challenged myself in the past to reflect on what I “get” when I “give”. Is it inner peace? Is it satisfaction? Do I feel like a better person? Can I “not” give and feel ok inside?

    I came to realize that I was a person for whom it was hard not to give…so I explored that. I come from a Catholic upbringing that though much good is done through Churches of any denomination where suffering, for me, was glorified and giving made me saint-like. I had to back away from a lot of that and just feel ok and good when I didn’t give.

    After a lot of reflection and years lived I now feel free to give or not give at any given moment. I do pay attention to inner nudges that when someone or something gets my attention, especially since I’ve don’t “have” to give anymore I honor those nudges and “give” something with a Namaste! And when I don’t give anything I still give the Namaste!

    I’m grateful for what you wrote and have received from your words the gifts of “give with the intent of miracles and let it go” AND what you wrote above that Kathy did in Chicago…

    “She would imagine them happy, joyful, laughing, and then imagine a ball of light coming from her to that person. It wasn’t always homeless people that she would give this to, it was entirely random and based entirely on the in-the-moment inspiration she felt. Whether or not the “gift” she gave made a difference, we’ll never know. But it made an impression on her.”

    Great thinking and sharing about giving!


    1. Thanks Mary! Since you are also raised catholic, I’ll mention that Paul said that people should work for their food, and that we should never tire from doing that which is good. (2Thessalonians 3:10-13) So, scripture even mentions that giving isn’t appropriate when we’re dealing with freeloaders who are just taking from us. It’s an important topic, and it’s even more important to make distinctions. Thanks for sharing yours!

  7. Excellent post Mark, and great comments by all.

    Giving with nonattachment is true giving. I too like to give and have had similar concerns as all do. Now when I give I let it go with the thought that my giving will help those in need. Even if I give to the person I know will just go buy alcohol or whatever with what I’ve given them. What was given was given and blessed so the outcome has to be good on some scale somewhere and I don’t need to keep score. Intent is key intent is a maleable thought. During martial arts training I was told to go alone to a quiet room and fill the room with my energy. If someone has bad intent towards you, you will feel it. It is that palapable, I’ve experienced this many times. Giving with blessed and good intent increases the vibrational frequency of the giver and the receiver. It also flows outward like the waves from a pebble dropped on a still pond of water. And Like the Sunami we have no idea how powerful our gift became as it hit the opposite shore.

    Thanks again Mark

    1. Thanks, Rod. Yes, I do believe in the letting go of expectations and letting spirit do its work. I think that lots of times we give with ulterior motives or expectations, and that is very disappointing. But when we give with positive intent, but also let go of any and all expectations, that’s where miracles happen.

  8. Mark,
    Outstanding post! I have a story of my own. My wife just died less than 2 months ago. What inspired me about her most was her giving. She gave her last $5.00 to her Aunt a week before she died. She made me go out buy a card, candy and deliver it to her Aunt. Just because she wanted to. She was always helping others all the while suffering day to day. She was contstatly thinking of other people and what she could do for them as she was constantly sick.
    I gave to my wife as well. I quit my job to be a full time care giver to my wife. It hurt us financially but what a reward to be with my wife when she needed me the most.
    Like you said giving doesn’t always work out either. Because of my wife’s generous heart, people were always taking advantage of her. She recognised that and found other people instead who cherrished her heart and not her materialism.
    I wasn’t always that way. I wasn’t at all giving and caring until I met my wife. Now caring and thoughfulness and helping are instilled in me. I can’t escape it nor do I want to. I do chores and deeds for my neighbors never expecting anything.
    I’m waiting to win the lottery now so I can spread the wealth and be even more generous. I want to help the homeless, the hungry and the sick. I think it’s my destiny to help people and be there for them.
    I was on here looking for a job in the mean time and somehow came across this. It was meant to be. Keep up the good work!!!
    God Bless-Jon

    1. Jon, thank you. The world needs more people like you. Thank you for sharing your message. I am inspired.

  9. Good post, Mark & Kathy. As you can probably imagine, one point that hits home for me — given my normal blogging topics 🙂 — is the difference between giving freely and lovingly, and indulging in the type of “conspicuous altruism” that stems from a desire for attention and/or, in some cases, a need to provide a distraction from the giver’s misdeeds.

    People do have different motives for giving, and I recognize that even some of the most conspicuous altruists may also be giving out of a sense of compassion and a genuine desire to help someone. But with these folks, in all too many cases, the conspicuous-altruist factor seems to override everything else; moreover, they expect something in return for their largess (loyalty, silence, etc.), which kind of renders the whole idea of “giving” moot.

    As for compassion, I don’t think that is a bad motivation for giving, but as you pointed out, we can’t let our compassion for someone’s plight — or what we perceive as their plight — blind us to the possibility that the person may be trying to manipulate us. In the end, if we’re going to give we really do have to “let go” and “let it be” in more ways than just letting go of the material good or time or energy we share with someone else. And as a confirmed agnostic I think it is possible to do this whether or not one believes in the “…and let God” part of the equation.

    As this post so eloquently phrased it: “Sometimes giving a dollar to someone who is going to spend it on alcohol is a dollar lost; sometimes it is a miracle.”

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