When Giving Isn't Good

On Mother’s Day, at our church, the mothers of the congregation receive a rose as a token of appreciation. It is tradition for the children to hand out these roses, not necessarily to their mother. This Mother’s Day, after the Sunday celebration, I talked with my 10-year-old nephew. He said, “I like giving out flowers because it makes me feel good.”

Giving to and caring for someone makes us feel good. I’m sure we have all experienced a time when giving a gift, giving time or caring for someone makes us feel all warm and gushy inside. But do we do it because it makes us feel good?

Good feelings act as positive reinforcement for doing something “good”; it makes us want to do it again and again. When we are young, this helps build our character and gets us thinking and being aware of those around us. As we mature, we have to watch that our character doesn’t get too strong, when we give and care just for our own feelings.

Surprisingly, giving to and caring for others can be selfish! When you give a gift to someone so that you feel good, who did you give the gift for? Did you give the gift so that the person feels better, or did you give it so that you feel better? When you care for someone, did you do it so that the person is cared for or did you care for them because you are then a “caring person” and in reality you are caring for yourself? 

This can be a tricky balance to find and requires brutal (and sometimes painful) honesty with yourself. Who do you serve when you do what you do, them or you?

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