The experience of giving isn’t an objective one: our relation to the money we give and the attitudes we bring to bear directly impact our own experience and on our practice.
So much collected teaching and wisdom about giving rests in the religious traditions, and I’m just beginning to explore what this ancient wisdom has to teach us about modern giving.
All the major faiths place great emphasis on giving – how could they not, as giving binds a community together, keeps it coherent, ensures a level of well-being for members of the community and stability for the whole community. In the Jewish tradition, one gives the maaser (1/10th of one’s wealth and 1/10th of one’s income) as tzedakah; this translated into the Christian tradition of tithing. Islam has a similar tradition of zakat, the laws of which are specified in the Qur’an.
In all of these traditions, giving is completing the circle in one’s relationship with God. Our abundance is a reflection of the blessings we have been given, and when we give we are returning some of that abundance.
Whatever your faith (and even if you not religious) there is wisdom here. If we are in a position to give, we have been blessed with good fortune. We have the honor of being in a position to help another.
How different this notion is from a sense of scarcity, of needing to learn to let go each and every time we give. I find this notion freeing. We approach giving with the knowledge that what we are giving away was never ours; we approach giving with a sense of humility and with the knowledge that good fortune has played a role in our own good circumstances, and we are passing on a bit of that good fortune to another.