I recently found myself working from a cafe and when a large group of seniors came in. I was very politely approached by staff to see if I could shift tables to allow for the group to sit together. This was not a problem of course – I was more than happy to oblige…until I realised that the group of seniors didn’t seem to be that thankful. I felt they almost had an expectation that I should move for them. There was almost a sense of entitlement. I found myself wishing they were more thankful for my act of kindness and even feeling some regret for being so willing to help out. Very quickly, I am a little ashamed to say, my willingness to help out and do something for someone else turned into hostility, which all came about because of how I perceived that people were responding.
If we knew in advance whether or not someone was going to be thankful, or show gratitude to us in a manner that we would expect, I wonder how much that would impact our behaviour. It may make things easier but it could possibly create a world in which we would only do nice things to those who would offer thanks in return. It would take the risk out of generosity. Making it a kind of love your neighbour and hate your enemy situation.
But Jesus flipped this mentality on its head, He taught his followers to love their enemies and pray for those who persecuted them. It is an encouragement to act out of generosity to anyone you come across regardless of how they might respond to you. It’s a tough ask.
But it comes with an incredible strength. Someone whose behaviour does not depend on the response of those around them shows true character, especially if they are able to be generous is a hostile environment.
It’s much easier to repay people in kind, to offer animosity for animosity. Being generous is a life changer, for you and the people you are being generous to. You might not get a wave of thanks in return, but it’s worth the effort to bring a little bit of love into our world.
One of the greatest examples of generosity comes from the life of King David, in the Old Testament in the Bible.
He had made a mistake. His pride got the better of him and he insisted on knowing exactly how many fighting men he had under his command. Whilst it sounds innocuous enough, what it shows is his priority at the time. It showed what his ‘god’ was in that moment. He put his faith in numbers rather than in the strength of God – as a result his men paid the price as a plague devastated them.
A prophet came to David after the plague had passed, David felt incredibly guilty and ashamed that his actions had caused damage to his men, and the Prophet said, ‘it’s time to worship God now, go and build an altar on that land over there and worship.’
As David went to do that, the owner of the land approached him and offered to give him the land and the animals to use for free. Surely that’s one of the many benefits of being a king…
But his response showed his true heart – he said ‘I will not offer something to God that cost me nothing’. It would have been all to easy to go ahead and take advantage of the situation but David knew he needed to value what he was about to offer God.
That is an incredibly powerful message. As we think about giving and generosity may it be a helpful reminder, that giving without sacrifice is not generosity. If it costs us nothing to give then the gift is worth nothing.
It happens again and again. Every time that I travel to a developing country and connect with mothers who have taken a loan through Opportunity International, the same theme comes out. When we ask them what they are hoping for, it is always about providing their children with a better life than they have experienced themselves. The love of a parent for their child is strong and this is not only true in some of the poorest parts of Asia, I believe it is true world wide. It is a global phenomenon. Parents love their kids. We may show it in different ways, but it is love all the same.
We want the best for them and for them to have opportunities that we didn’t have. That’s part of being human.
The amazing thing in all this is that it actually shows me that there we have much more in common than we think. It is all too easy to focus on the differences between people groups, nationalities and ethnicity. Some cultural expressions of people differ greatly across the world, but when it comes down to it, we are all on the same planet trying to survive and if possible thrive. Whatever that looks like, but at the heart of it all is love. And our kids certainly have a way to bring that out in us – which is humanity at its best.
When was the last time you said I don’t know?
Perhaps you said just then when you answered that question.
But I don’t think we say it enough. There is something unsettling about that phrase – it creates uncertainty and ambiguity. Often that is the opposite of what we are looking for. We thrive where there is certainty in what we do and specific actionable items. This is helpful for us but can be dangerous when we are faced with a question we don’t know the answer to, or a new situation that has unknown outcomes.
If we approach these questions and situations with a need for absolute certainty in that moment we may not only be making an error in what we say and do, but we are missing out on the possibility that we may learn something we never dreamed of.
As people, we do not have all the answers and if we pretend that we do then we are lying to ourselves and to others. We will never reach a time when we finish learning and the irony is, I have discovered the more that I learn, it highlights the amount that I don’t know.
Saying I don’t know, rather than a sign of weakness and failure, actually comes from a place of strength and humility.
It’s expensive to be poor. It sounds strange but it’s true.
You see, sometimes we forget just how amazing things are. Things that we use every day, that we have as a normal part of life in Australia. One of those things is technology, and the access to facilities that save us so much time and money.
Take a trip to the bank for example. If we want to withdraw some money, we can just go the local ATM in our area, or even take it out from the supermarket when we do our next shopping run. It’s even better if we want to transfer some money to someone else, we can do that from our desktop, or mobile device, which can happen anywhere, even on the toilet.
On the odd occasion that we actually need to go into a branch, the banks have ‘reasonable’ opening hours and we can take some time during our work day to do that. Sure it may ruin our lunch break but we can do it.
In places like the Philippines, getting access to cash or to make a payment is not as simple. It actually requires a physical visit to the bank. A remote agricultural worker needs to give up a days wage to travel to the nearest financial service provider and pay for the transportation, this is a huge cost burden. Imagine losing 20% of your weekly income, plus travel expenses, just to visit a bank. Nobody likes banks that much…
This another example of the complexity of poverty, and how those who are living in it can be trapped by the daily issues they face. But the more we understand it, the more we can do about it and create a hand up for those caught in its cycle.
Extreme Poverty is defined as anyone living on less than about $2 a day. We still have hundreds of millions of people in that situation which is horrific and no one should ever have to go through it.
I don’t know about you, but there have been times when I would try to calculate what I could with $2 per day to see if there is a way that I could survive. Surely you can make anything work, if you budget well enough, were frugal with spending, survival would be possible. Extreme poverty can’t be that difficult. Can it?
Not only is that a harsh way to look at it, but my thinking also had a fundamental flaw. One of the most difficult aspects of life for those living in extreme poverty is the unpredictable manner in which they earn an income. Whilst in Australia, most of us know what our next pay check is going to be, when it will arrive in our bank account and how we can access it. In places like India for example, many work in unregulated areas and do so irregularly. They may earn $20 on day ten which averages out to $2 a day. Meaning that they don’t literally receive $2 every single day. It’s not neat and tidy and it makes budgeting and increasing financial security impossible.
There are many organisations, including Opportunity International, who are fighting against this and creating a way for people to earn a regular income to increase their financial security, making life just that little bit easier.
We all have motivations that drive our behaviour, whether they be to feel good, or because of love, or a sense of responsibility and sometimes it comes from guilt.
Guilt can be a strong motivator and I have come across a number of people who will give generously to churches or charities to appease a sense of guilt they feel about one thing or another. Sometimes that guilt comes purely from within them, and other times the organisations they give to have sought to create a sense of guilt for them, so that they will give.
Whilst guilt can motivate us to do good things, it is not a quality long term motivating factor. After a while, people will generally tire of feeling guilty, like they are trapped in to doing something, and cease to engage in their generous acts.
A stronger motivation, and a somewhat healthier one, is a sense of responsibility. This is a more positive, proactive response that doesn’t require someone to feel bad about there current situation. Instead it provides a way for a person to use their current situation for the benefit of others. To act out of freedom.
As Australians, we are one of the wealthiest countries on earth, we could feel guilty about that and offer our generosity as some sort of payment to overcome the guilt, or we can see our place in the world as a gift, which carries with it a responsibility to help others who are not as financially blessed as we are.
We all love a good comparison. Whether we are comparing our car to the person next to us at the lights, or our homes when we visit our friends, or how well our kids behave. Our life can be one long journey of measurement against the things and people around us. As we all probably know, comparison can actually be quite dangerous and destructive.
But there is a website that you should check out – it compares every person in the world according to how much they earn. globalrichlist.com
All you need to do is put in your annual income and it will give you a ranking, to the person, according to your wealth on a global scale. It is a very interesting insight and quite profound.
The average income of a full time employee in Australia is almost $82,000, and according to the website the average Australian sits in the top 0.3% of the world. That means if the world was in a line starting at the richest person all the way back to the poorest person, the average Australian would have 99.7% of the global population standing behind them in that line.
That is incredible to me and it shows me that, whilst Australia is certainly not perfect, we are in such a strong position to create positive change with our wealth and influence that comes along with wealth.
Where do you rank in the line? What positive changes are you going to create through your wealth and influence?
Have you ever wondered why you act in a certain way?
When I was younger I used to sit at the back of every classroom, meeting room or theatre I found myself in. I would tell myself I did that because I was a ‘Back Row Bandit’, and I was rebelling against the system of rows that we were forced to comply with. I was a freedom fighter of sorts…
Over time I discovered that wasn’t true. In reality I was feeling insecure and I worried that if someone was sitting behind me they could see over my shoulder and observe my actions and realise that I had no idea what I was doing. I didn’t want to be found out – it’s not an uncommon experience I’ve discovered.
Understanding why we do the things that we do can be one of the most complicated elements of being a human. We are intellectual, emotional, spiritual and physical beings and at any given moment there can be a dozen influences at play within us that can effect our behaviour.
Allowing ourselves time and space to reflect and ask the ‘5 Why’s’ can assist in the discovery of the root cause of any sort of behaviour, career choice, reason why we choose to be generous, or reason why we choose not to.
It’s not a judgemental process but a great tool that we can use to get to the heart of why we do the things we do.
Sit down, think of something you do consistently (this could be something great that you do), or a behaviour that you wish to change, and ask yourself why you do it. For every response you have follow it up with another why. Be honest, gracious and intentional. Once you get to 5 why’s you are well on your way to understanding your motivation, which could be fear (much of what motivates me to do things that I don’t really want to do is fear), or regret, or pain. When you can articulate what motivates you (again, without judgement), you can begin to make conscious choices to change or refine that behaviour. This is a step in the journey of living life on purpose.
People make mistakes. All of us do. It’s a fact of life. How we respond to those mistakes will either allow us to create something great out of them or it will define us.
Many people give their money generously to a vast amount of charities. When people give, they have an expectation that the money will be used wisely to create a positive impact in a certain area of the world.
Sometimes those expectations are not met and the positive impact is not created, in fact it can actually cause a negative result. I have seen this often with international development. When organisations work in developing countries to fight against poverty a program that they implement with the intention of doing good can backfire and create harm. I’ve heard of projects where the experts convinced local farmers to change their crops, so they could grow more of another type of food which would increase their income. In the end the new crop didn’t produce anywhere near what was predicted, so the farmers were left with less than they would have if they didn’t change, and what they did harvest, nobody wanted to purchase because there was no demand.
That is bad development. But it’s not the end of the story. If we allow it, by being open and honest when things don’t work out, bad development can be the stepping stone to good development then great development and then life transformation.
It’s the same in everyday life. A mistake doesn’t have to be fatal, in fact it can be the greatest thing to ever happen because it brings learning and a fresh perspective.