Give Yourself a Gift by Being Charitable

I want to encourage you to be as selfish as you possibly can.

How can I encourage that?

Well, Jesuit priest Anthony De Mello, in his book "Awareness: The Perils and Opportunities of Reality," describes three kinds of selfishness: giving yourself the pleasure of pleasing yourself (self-centeredness), giving yourself the pleasure of pleasing others, and doing something you don't want to be doing so that you won't feel bad (codependence).

Let's just focus on the selfishness of pleasing others.

Maybe this doesn't fit perfectly with the definition of selfishness, but bear with me. Almost everyone I know who is involved in charity gets a benefit from it. Selfless acts are concomitantly self-interested.

That is a good thing. Being generous because it feels good can be a strong motivation and knowing we are getting something from our generosity keeps us humble.

When we do something for others we feel better about ourselves.

This year, our company served meals at the Simpson Housing shelter for those experiencing homelessness. We had to do it in various shifts because of the size of our group, but we generally had similar experiences.

Many of us not only cooked the meals, but we ate them with the people who came in.

And while we had a variety of feelings as we engaged in the lives of those we were serving, we felt good about being able to do it. Each of us marveled at how worthwhile it was.

When we do something for others we better appreciate what we have.

All philanthropy is a recognition that we are able to share what we have. Whether it is money or time, when we do things for others we are acknowledging in that moment that we are fine.

It's ironic that when we are not engaged in philanthropy, we may complain about how financially tight we are or how busy we seem to be.

But for at least a moment, we refute that through our gifts of treasure or time. And that makes us feel better.

Doing things for others also helps us form community.

If you are actively involved in causes, you meet others who are also involved. Even if you don't spend a lot of time volunteering, you know you are not alone.

Looking through the list of donors for charities in which you are involved, you recognize people who share common interests with you.

That feels good.

Maybe charity involves some degree of self-interest rather than selfishness, but during these challenging times, do something great for yourself by doing something for others.

Spend your life wisely.

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