The human nature of giving

We all at one point or the other think or want to be charitable. It’s in our human nature to give because of a social obligation; meaning we feel bad that we enjoy something which the other person could only dream of. We also tend to give because of local level relations; meaning, someone did a favor to you and the least we could do is return it in another form. For those of you working 9 to 5 jobs and are a part of companies may know that we also give because of hierarchical dependence. Meaning your boss sends out a circular that you should give and your colleagues start to give, so you kind of have the urge to give.

Not to intentionally highlight the worst side of giving, but this has been revealed by an interesting research which has been carried out in Sri Lanka as a part of a DFID project. I personally think it’s not fair to judge anyone unless you truly know their story behind the scenes!

But I’m glad that I have been witness to many who practice selfless giving. People who have left their top-notch private sector jobs to do community service. People who donate more than 30% of their income towards uplifting the marginalized. People who sell their talent to raise money and expect nothing in return. People who donate their properties and homes so that others may use it as children and Elder’s homes. The list goes on…

The research goes on to say that especially in Colombo, the main driver determining the form and content of charity is religion. Many have claimed that they give because of their religious duty and obligation which brings about moral discipline. This is very good, but have you ever thought what would happen if this kind of obligation was not there? Would most of us give? Frightening!

I can very well relate to the findings of this study when it says that most charitable acts involve direct help to the poor like food & medical assistance. But to a lesser extent on housing and livelihood development. Doesn’t this sound familiar?

Let me take you back to where I started. Since giving is practiced by many as a spur of the moment, social and peer pressured, onetime thing, they subconsciously select causes with direct assistance like food, medicine etc. where they see immediate results. They won’t have the patience to wait and see a long-term cause of a beneficiary like livelihood, go through a development phase and gradually prosper.

Our country though needs this second type of charity because only then we would be able to give sustainable solutions to poverty. This goes with the age old saying “Give a fish to a man and he will eat for the day, teach a man to fish and he will fend for himself for life”.

So let me wind up this so called lesson by saying that we need more people to believe in charity and be selfless givers. No, you don’t need to gift your house! But just give or do what you can, because you actually care from within.


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