Is Your Charity Hurting Others?

Image: Aleksandr Kutsayev /

Imagine it is Christmas time. You know of a mother and a father who cannot provide presents for their three children.

Knowing this, you decide to purchase presents for each of the three children. You have wrapped the presents and you know the kids will love the presents you picked out.

After wrapping the presents, you hand them over to the parents who take them and put them under the tree.

You have done a good deed and feel good. You have helped provide for three children that needed to have a wonderful Christmas.

It is now Christmas morning. The kids are excited as they see presents under the tree. They know there is something good waiting for them under the tree. As the kids are tearing into the presents, the mother sits and watches tensely but the father wanders off into the kitchen or bedroom. The father just could not stand to be in the room as the kids opened the presents.

This scenario plays out in many households with parents who cannot afford to give their children presents.

You may be asking yourself “Why would a father not want to see his children open their presents?”

The reason is that your charity may be hurting the father and mother.

A lot of what passes for depression these days is nothing more than a body saying that it needs work.  ~Geoffrey Norman

Imagine being the mother or father in this situation. You love your children and want them to be happy but you cannot afford to give them a Christmas with all sorts of presents. A nice man or woman comes and offers to provide all of the gifts for the children at no cost to you.

You take the presents and place them under the tree knowing it will make your children happy. You do this for them, not yourself.

While you are placing the presents under the tree, you are wishing you had been the one to purchase the presents. To be the reason your children and smiling and laughing and playing with new toys. But you provided none of what is happening, someone else provided it all.

There is something that could be changed about this story. As the one who is providing the gifts to the family, you could require the mother and father to “work for and purchase” the presents. The father could provide yard work, automotive work, or volunteer somewhere. The father now has a chance to earn the presents for his children. Instead of feeling shame for getting a handout, he no longer has that feeling of guilt or shame that he cannot provide as he earned what he is giving.

While this is but one example of how this could play out, it could happen in many different ways. The next time you feel like giving a handout, try to think of how you could help the person earn what you are giving. It will help the person feel like they earned it and it may even restore dignity to their life.

Question: Have you ever helped someone out but seen them feel shame? Could you help them in a way that would not bring them shame? Please post your response below in the comment section.

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