The Art of Giving

Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.Albert Einstein

Do the highest good you know. ~ Unknown 

How can the act of giving something to another be defined—exactly? Could it be: providing a good or service to another without any expectation of return for the “individual, separated self”? It is my opinion that is exactly what it is, but what does that mean? Let me endeavor to explain:

Would giftings with even subtle expectations, also, constitute a form of quid pro quo?

Obviously, if we give something to someone with the expectation of a quid pro quo we are not giving it. We would then be entering a trade or a business deal. But, what constitutes a quid pro quo? Money? a return gift? a favor in return for a favor? I would claim providing something under these conditions does constitute a quid pro quo scenario. That is, “I give you this and you give me that.” Not only would this type of gift would be an offer of a trade, or a type of business deal it could, even, be seen as simply as a bribe because we would have the expectation of something in return for our supposed gift. I think this much should be easy to understand, but what about expectations of a more subtle nature? Would giftings with even subtle expectations, also, constitute a form of quid pro quo? And if not a quid pro quo exactly then, at least, would it not be setting ourselves up for disappointment? Disappointment of the general nature derived from a quid pro quo that is not resolved to our satisfaction.

Burnout costs social justice movements so many valuable members

I think… and, I stand to be corrected, but I think the disappointment caused by such expectations contributes to what is often called activist burnout. Burnout costs social justice movements so many valuable members of our efforts; therefore, allow me to elaborate.

It is having expectations of rewards that I am critiquing.

Please understand that it is not the return of a reward, or the benefit to or for someone, society or the world that I am critiquing. It is having expectations of rewards that I am critiquing because in this expectation we set ourselves up for disappointment. And, disappointment sets us up for failure.

For instance, if we perform a kindness for someone expecting them to say… to say thank you and for whatever reason they fail to respond with even this simple amenity, if we then feel slighted or disappointed would not this constitute a giving with the expectation of something in return, i.e., a quid pro quo of sorts. Would not this then make it less likely that we would happily and freely provide that or a similar service or good to that person again?

I would encourage everyone to return a thank you as often as proper.

Of course, someone might protest that expecting nothing but a simple thank you is small enough a reward for a kindness. I do certainly agree that a mere thank you is, indeed, a very small reward. I would, also, encourage everyone to return a thank you as often as opportunity presents itself for doing so provides many benefits to the who thus returns the thank you as well as to others; however, it remains that, even, the act of expecting someone to say thank you in return for anything is still expecting a reward. Which expectation sets one’s self up for disappointment.

It is our duty to work for the greater good.

The same might be said of expecting a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, or even the expectation that our actions should provide some benefit to society, or the world. This most definitely is not to say we should not attempt to do good. Indeed, it is my firm convection that it is our duty to work for the greater good… the greater good of the community in which we live, of humanity and/or of the entire planet. But we should do so knowing that however small and insignificant our individual efforts may be those efforts will contribute to the greater good through the process of accumulated effect, and that it is this process of accumulated effort that is important not the individual effort. It will be our efforts combined with the efforts of, not only those standing with us today, but those who will follow in our footsteps which will affect the ultimate benefit to all life.

Roger W Mills, II

Please leave your thoughts and comments.


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