Most of us believe we are natural born givers. We are motivated by dreams of a world where everyone has enough to eat and a warm safe, comfy place to sleep. But is that what really motivates us to give?
We dutifully give to our churches, charities, non-profits, children’s schools, neighbors in need, and family we love. The opportunities to give are literally endless. We give, give, give, and give again. For most of us, thinking about – “Where to give? Who should we give to? How should we fairly distribute the money we give? Do we have enough to give?” and “Who can we trust with the money we give?” – can be overwhelming.
Sometimes the mental stress is enough to make anyone want to stop giving; and the statistics are proving that more and more are succumbing to the pressure. People are overwhelmed with uncertainty and find themselves making the decision to resist their natural inclination to help in favor of personal survival and success. They are retreating from the constant reminder that they must give to their church to help their community survive and thrive.
But perhaps we are making giving harder than it really is?
Often in a church environment, fear and worry can dominate our thoughts. Scripture clearly states, “fear not,” yet when it comes to actually giving, we worry about the consequences of giving (or not giving), instead of just believing in the power of giving.
This applies to those in leadership at churches, as well as those in attendance at churches. Church leadership is pressured to remind churchgoers that they need to give, and those in attendance worry they don’t have enough to give. This cycle goes on year after year, making the worry worse on both sides when in truth — as religious writings and wise thinkers repeatedly tell us — think less, do more; be thoughtless about giving and you will be empowered by giving.
Scientific research even supports the notion that thoughtless giving of one's time, talents and treasures is a powerful pathway to transcend difficulties, find purpose, fulfillment and meaning in life. Two studies in the mid-2000s examined where in the brain the impulse to give originated. Both studies offered insight into why it feels so good to help others. The results demonstrated that when volunteers placed the interests of others before their own, their generosity activated a primitive part of the brain that usually lights up in response to food or sex. [The Giving Way to Happiness, book excerpt]
The studies showed that doing good makes people feel good and that altruism is more about the “self” than it is about the sacrifice. Even when it was mandatory for subjects to donate, the pleasurable response persisted - though it wasn't as strong as when people got to choose whether or not to donate.
In truth, most of us are not natural born givers — we are more motivated by how we feel than how others feel. It is that selfish biological and psychological element that motivates us the most — and that is a great thing! When church leaders and attendees acknowledge this truth, all can relax and be empowered by thinking less and doing more. Because in truth, we are more empowered by thoughtless giving, than thoughtful thinking.