Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 – The Fifth Tuesday in Lent
During Lent, we often focus on taking away a habit or adding a discipline; another alternative during Lent is to emphasize giving. I did not originally set out to concentrate on giving this Lent. The practice has grown, organically, but it seemed to fit so well that it became a conscious effort. Thinking of giving as a spiritual calling during Lent has filled it with even greater meaning.
The kickoff to this endeavor was reading Give and Take by Wharton professor Adam Grant; you may have read it or seen it on the New York Times Best Seller list. We had never met before he spoke to my firm earlier this year, but we chatted at length, exchanged e-mail addresses, and he has become a good friend. We have never discussed religion, so it’s not clear whether he is a Christian or not, but his ideas conform as closely to Christian teachings as any you will ever hear.
Grant’s hallmark assertion in the book is iconoclastic in business circles: personal success often depends on treating other people well. He asserts that highly successful business people generally have a “combination of hard work, talent, and luck,” but argues that there is a critical fourth element: how a person interacts with others. As partially foretold by the book’s name, Grant describes three common types of people: takers, who like to get more than give; givers, who do the inverse; and matchers, who prefer to give as much as they get.
The prevailing world view on these types is a cynical one: the most successful people in the secular world are takers. Enlightened pragmatists might suggest that matchers have a better mix and end up on top. Grant, however, shows that, counterintuitively, givers prove the most successful. To be clear, certain givers also occupy the very bottom of the pile. Grant extensively demonstrates that selfless givers, who give without much concern for their own needs and ambitions, often struggle; “otherish” givers, who value their own success as well as others’ success, tend to thrive in life.
One example among many: when you help others consciously, “it benefits you by improving your mood. Economists call it the warm glow of giving, and psychologists call it the helper’s high.” When you choose to give, as a deliberate act of seeking to help another person, you don’t feel like a doormat–you receive a true, deep, emotional and even spiritual boost. Surely those of you who go to the soup kitchen, bring a stuffed animal on Teddy Bear Sunday, donate to Rummage, or travel on missions know this feeling.
For my part, it’s not that I took giving further this Lent, it’s that I took it elsewhere. As it happens, this Lent has been a time of significant change, even turmoil, at my workplace. For the past few weeks instead of merely listening to the young professionals that drop by for advice, counsel, or assistance, I have encouraged a deeper conversation. Chats that might have taken ten minutes have stretched to thirty or more. As an extra step, I’ve made a point of following up with the offer to help more if they wish. I hope they have benefitted from the experience; I know that I have. Most importantly for me, it has somehow transformed a period of heightened anxiety into one of deep and abiding peace.
It might seem an impossible feat to give like Christ, with absolute selflessness and a complete lack of fear or concern. It doesn’t seem we have to do so, however. To simply consciously give, to strive to give more to others than we expect in return, creates a wonderful spiritual benefit both for ourselves and those we help.
Questions for the day: What are my motivations for giving? For taking?
– Todd Trubey, Christ Church Parishioner