Have you ever gone shopping and splurged a little bit, arriving back home with more items than you had originally planned, which brings about feelings of guilt and shame, even though it is your money and you can spend it however you want?
Ever been there?
It turns out you are not alone. It’s a global phenomenon. The feeling of guilt after a splurge comes because we feel like we are stealing from other important parts of our budget. Like the mortgage, or rent or food. But, studies tell us, if we set aside money in our budget specifically to splurge then the guilt disappears. Just like that, because that money is there to be spent however you want and it gives you the freedom to do that.
It’s the same with generosity and giving. Sometimes we feel guilt when we give because there are other important things that require our finance and it can feel like we are stealing from those parts when we are generous.
If we set aside money to give away, become intentional about being generous, that will overcome any guilt we may feel and make it easier for us to make a positive difference in the world.
Be generous on purpose.
What happens when you stress about money?
There is a story about sugarcane farmers in India – a group of researchers tested their IQ after harvest when they had money, then again a few months later right before the harvest. The difference was that they scored nearly 10 points less when tested right before the harvest. They simply had less mental energy to focus on the test.
That is the impact of poverty and financial insecurity. It is mentally overwhelming. Poverty places a huge burden on each person’s finite mental bandwidth which creates tunnel vision as well as decreases cognitive function. All of this makes it harder to focus on anything beyond the current problem, to problem solve, resist impulses or think long-term.
It’s not that the sugarcane farmers lacked intelligence or became dumber, it was because of the circumstances they were in on the day they were tested.
This is a good reason we don’t talk about “poor families”, but instead “families living in poverty” – because their identity is not that they are poor, that is just their current context.
This phenomenon is the same everywhere in the world. Poverty has a crippling effect and stops people from reaching their full God given potential. It’s the reason that God’s heart is always for those trapped in the poverty cycle. We must keep working to overcome it.
I missed a concert recently. It was going to be amazing, the first date night with my wife for a while, a musician that we both loved, the first concert of their Australian tour. By all accounts a perfect night ahead…until
There are very few words that I can use to explain what happened and not gross you out, but just before we were about to leave our 18 month old was unwell, which required a clean up and a decision that we couldn’t leave him with babysitters like that, even if they were family. So we gave our tickets away and I was shattered. We both were. So much of a build up led to a giant let down and disappointment.
Most people around me at the time shared my disappointment, but a few encouraged me to be thankful for what I did have and for the fact that other people enjoyed the concert on my behalf. I hear that, but I wasn’t in the place, yet.
I think it’s important when we experience loss in life that we acknowledge it and experience it. Sure, this was just a concert but the principal is the same with any loss. For us it was a loss of an experience, a loss of what could have been, and in some way I needed to grieve that loss.
After a little while we got tickets to another concert. A different artist and venue, but this one we actually made it to, just, and we loved it. We probably loved it more because we missed out previously.
Loss breeds gratitude. If we let it, if we sit with the painful, difficult parts of life and grieve, that paves the way, over time, for joy to be experienced.
Often people will have a particular area in the developing world that they are passionate about. So when they give money they will allocate it to that country or region.
Others may not have that connection and they will request that their funds be assigned to where the greatest need is.
With so much need in the world, how can anyone possibly suggest that one area is a priority over another?
It’s a difficult call.
Low income is one factor when it comes to poverty, but so is a lack of access to basic services, like clean drinking water, toilets, health and education, and vulnerability shocks, like illness, death or even festivals.
Opportunity International targets rural or under-served areas where poverty is high but the overall economic and political environment are stable. We also look for signs of development such as roads or markets in those areas of need. There is a tension between recognising the great need and also being able to genuinely create a positive impact and measure success over time. It’s vital to track and feedback on the projects that are being funded.
The greatest need is constantly shifting in our world as new events take place that cause poverty related issues, but also as more and more families work their way out of poverty. That’s the good news – today’s areas of greatest need will not be the same in the future because of the work that is being done.