charity · philanthropy · wealth

Circular Reasoning.


I’m listening to the final chapter of Tony Robbin’s Money: Master the Game and, as isn’t surprising because it’s him, the chapter’s all about philanthropy.  Both he and Gretchen Rubin, in her Happiness Project books, cite studies that report a more-than-coincidental correlation between giving money and earning a higher income.

Bizarre, huh?

While, of course, that’s not all studies and certainly correlation is not causation, it’s still a psychological pattern that finds roots for me.

I’m part of a triad that meets to look at the finances and pressures of one the group members on an every 6-week basis.  The guy in the group is your typical starving artist:  a slam poet working for a dysfunctional non-profit, wanting to accomplish more in life but fearing that by “working in the system,” he’s selling out, he’s “one of them.”

The rub for him is that by not allowing for any success or abundance in his own life, he’s able to do much less for the organization he and a prison inmate founded for educating young adults.  While I’m not preaching that everyone who wants to do more in the world needs more funds to do it, for this particular guy, he’s frustrated, stuck, and even a little hopeless as he witnesses his non-profit boss drowning in her own do-good-er-ness and righteous poverty.

So, is wealth the answer for him?  No, of course not.  Would having a firmer financial cushion enable him to devote more time to his own cause and not depend so much on the dysfunction of others?  Well, that’s the hope!

In order to get there, though, this guy is deep in the “having to dismantle old ideas” phase from his youth.  If Money is evil, Rich people are corrupt, Success is for pansies, well, then he’s not going to break out of this pattern that is causing him to suffer.  If he learns another way of viewing success, such as a vehicle for freeing up time and resources for his own organization, his own artistic endeavors, and allowing him to give back more… maybe this habit can change.

He is not alone in believing in the evils of money while at the same time wishing he had more.  In fact, the biblical verse is not “money is the root of all evil,” but rather the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil — perhaps interpreted as the love of money above all things.

The pursuit of wealth in and of itself may not be the most fulfilling path.  In fact, many of the studies cited by Rubin and Robbins (and even Arianna Huffington) state that when people were told to give a portion of money to charity, they reported a higher state of happiness and well-being over the long term than those who received a pay raise.  Ver veys, who knows.

But clearly, there is something to be said for giving.  And in order to give, one must earn.  And… in order to earn, one must give!  It’s a crazy, lovely cycle.  At the present I donate 2% of my income to charity (Charity Water, Planned Parenthood of Northern Texas, EarthJustice, Athletes for Cancer, and my spiritual group), but… really, it’s 1.97%…

What would happen for me, for others, for the world if I increased that amount to a true 2%?  What would happen at 3%?  There’s only one way to find out.

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