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Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When I Open My Wallet for Sharing (and when I don’t)

The most important factor that leads me to open my wallet for sharing is a sense of relationship.  This relationship can be a family relationship.  It can also be relationship based on a cause.  It is easy to give money regularly to the church because we share basic values and for me a lifetime of association (and even lifetimes, as my parents also gave and set the example.)  In the last presidential election I gave over $600 to the Democratic Party because of shared values and a long tradition of membership in that party.  This begs the question as to what is a sense of relationship in the first place.  Basically it is a strong identity with the receiving person or organization.  I have a feeling that my success or wellbeing is somehow tied up with their success or wellbeing.  After this relationship is established, the next important motivator to giving is a sense that the person or organization has earned the contribution.  They earn it by making a contribution to my life in one way or another.  Obviously family members earn their support by the love they bear me.  Their love brings me self-esteem (including that which comes from generosity) and a sense of ownership (they are, after all, my family).  People and organizations also earn contributions by showing consideration.  They indicate in their manner and approach that they do not expect me to give profligately.  They may carefully detail why I have just cause to give.  They assume a businesslike approach in listing and justifying their needs.  In other words, they show self-discipline by listing reasons why the expenditure is necessary or desirable.  They lead me to understand that the money is really needed and will not be wasted, but put to good and wise use.

This leads to the question, why do I sometimes keep my wallet tightly closed, even for “small change” requests?  First, I feel no relationship with the requesting party. My interests are not seen to be related to the request in anyway.  I share nothing with the party, so have nothing to share.  Next, they have not earned the contribution in that they have nothing to offer me either objectively or subjectively.  Finally, they show no consideration for my need for self-respect in giving.  They seem to expect me to give profligately without any effort to show that the money will be a good investment.  It’s sometimes surprising to me how hard my heart can become to those seeking money that offer me nothing in return or show no consideration of my need for self-respect. 

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