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.