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Guilt-free Giving

If you read my last post, you know that I am on a self-imposed mission to answer 3 questions that my infinitely curious mind dredged up last week.

If you haven’t read it, the questions were:

1.  What is it about organized charitable events, activities and the organizations themselves that draws us in and makes us want to give of ourselves?

2.  Is it possible to keep up the momentum of giving all year-long and feel good about it?

3.  Why do we feel guilty when we don’t give and how can we avoid that?

Let’s not tackle them all in one blog.  Three questions; three posts;three days.

I gave you my thoughts on question number two, first. Today, I’d like to get rid of the guilt.  Here’s my take on how to be giving but be guilt free when you don’t.

First of all, if you are still reading this I am going to guess you fall in to one of two groups of altruistic people.

Group A are already givers.  They do things for others, probably naturally, and like to feel helpful.  Doing for and giving to others  helps to define the Group A individual’s self-image, self-worth and/or self-esteem in some way.

Group B are not givers, but recognize the value that others do by giving in service or monetary donations. Members of Group B may feel they have a demanding job or home-life or a very tight budget that prevents them from doing or giving.

There is a third group.

Group C more than likely read the title and said “I’ll pass.”  Group C members see things in black and white and do not perceive a need to give of themselves.  To the person in this group, it is a foreign concept to donate time, money, or talent for the sake of anyone but themselves or their closest contacts.  They either do not feel a responsibility toward the well-being of others or do not feel they have anything worthwhile to contribute.

This is the point where I would usually paste information from a good article to back me up on my thoughts.  I should list some clinical research that I have done or read to validate my theories. I’m not. I define these groups based on my long-term observation of others. Although there may be people who overlap or do not seem to fit into one category completely, I feel that most people fit these descriptions overall.

Here’s my theory on why Group A and Group B feel guilt.

Group A feels guilty because they are never going to feel that they have given enough. Since they are already givers, by nature they want to help as many causes as much as they can.  The guilt comes from not having the means(i.e. time or money) to do so when the opportunity presents itself.

Group B feels guilty because they feel they could give and might like to, but have chosen not to do so. There are many reasons for this including a lack of connection to a cause, being stuck in the same routine or any of the little things that often comes up in life and gives us reason to make an excuse.

(Group C– feels no guilt.  They only do what they want, when they want as a rule. Not too many people or ideas would cause feelings of guilt for those in this group.)

Do  you  want to know how I think you can fix the guilt reaction when someone asks you to give your valuable time or hard-earned money or lend your crafted skills and you say no?

Here it is.

Be like Group C.

What?  (<—that’s you;I heard it.) Listen now, though.  I am not saying to quit giving or to never start. What I am suggesting is that you understand yourself.       *Know what you want to give and when you are willing and able to give.*

Look at the first suggestion from the list on my Giving is Good blog:

  • Define your intent.

Do you intend to give time, money, or talent?  Advocate, donate or volunteer?

If you know what ways of giving interest you, then you won’t feel guilty when you choose to say no. If you are asked to do something you never intended to do anyway, you give yourself a valid ‘out’. This doesn’t mean you can’t choose to  say yes if a new option resonates with you.

Now, let’s look at my second suggestion:

  • Create your boundary.

We are all busy and on a budget.  How much can you consistently give without feeling overwhelmed, but while staying connected?

For example, you have seriously looked at giving up the extra latte’s so you can donate a more/extra money, or decided to give  four hours on a Saturday every month as a volunteer. Don’t feel guilty then, when someone asks you to do something that falls outside of your boundary.  Again, if you want to say yes to something extra, then I say, “Good going!”  But, if you know how much you are able and willing to give, there is no need to feel guilty if or when you say no.  Even if there is a line of people watching you say no to buying the paper cutout at the register.

In the end, I think that guilt is the struggle between what we want to/need to do for ourselves and what we perceive others want or need us to do.  There will always be those struggles in our life, but defining your own intent and creating your boundaries will help you let go of guilty feelings.

Simply put- Guilt-free giving is when you give with your heart,  knowing what you want to give and when you want to give it.

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