In a society increasingly faced with scarcity, due mostly to over-taxation to fund overseas conflicts, charity is becoming less and less popular. People are understandably terrified of the future and feel compelled to penny-pinch. In these dark times for the west, we don’t know if tomorrow we’ll be robbed by a masked gun man or by a police officer and so we hold onto whatever we can out of fear.
This reaction to fear leads us to missing out on a lot of benefits from charity though, and forgetting these benefits can keep us from feeling a sense of satisfaction most humans have enjoyed for millennia. This satisfaction is our birthright as much as wealth, and if the ruling class robs us of it we become easier to control. This isn’t meant to imply that “we are our brother’s keeper”. If we accept self-regulation and individual responsibilities as virtues, we can’t also say that we’re meant to be perpetual parents and eternally in debt to others.
True charity is completely voluntary with no expectation of return or guilt. Charity is done simply for the sake of giving someone a break that we’d enjoy ourselves, and because we recognize benevolence as a virtue.
Here are the top 10 reasons people enjoy charity.
1. It improves self-esteem.
There are so many benefits to self-esteem, whole books have been written on this topic alone. Many intellectuals such as Nathaniel Branden have proposed that the crisis in western culture faced today is really a crisis of self-esteem. People are forgetting why they matter and why they’re important. In a job, romantic relationship or in a casual social situation, people find others with low self esteem to be repulsive. Someone who thinks lowly of themselves typically thinks lowly of others or has other dysfunctional tendencies which a person with a great deal of confidence and self assurance doesn’t.
Charity is a great way to improve your self esteem. Helping someone when they’re down makes us appreciate our reflection when we look in the mirror. It gives us a sense of pride and belonging, and we remember we’re an important asset to the global community’s fight against tyranny and enslavement.
2. It forces virtues out of us that excess would conceal.
This one is quite obvious for anyone that engages in a good deal of charity. Charity forces us to be smarter about how we spend our time and money. If you give a good deal to charity, expect to drink less, eat less junk food, and spend less time at the TV. A benevolent person is reminded that they can’t do these things because everyone has a finite amount of resources, and they have to allocate these resources wisely and gain or improve skills to make up for the reduced income security that being charitable brings about. Even times of pleasure have to be of a higher caliber for most charitable people. Being around people we consider to be excellent and virtuous is a lot better for us than watching cat videos.
3. Benevolence is a virtue.
Benevolence is everywhere, and is the hallmark of a healthy society. Free wifi, free air pressure checks for your car tires, and free emotional support on the internet are all forms of benevolence. If we as a society had to stop and negotiate for every last one of these things we often take for granted, we’d likely grind to a halt and everyone would collectively jump out of their windows. We all benefit from benevolence in countless ways, many times without even realizing someone else was looking out for us. We love benevolence because it’s win-win, but without the stress of negotiation! Benevolence is not done out of a sense of guilt or obligation. It’s a genuine freebie.
4. It reminds us we’re on the same side.
When we find someone racked with guilt about situation (economic or not), it can help them tremendously to remind them that the years since 9/11 haven’t been easy for anyone. Political corruption is widespread, aggression is being applauded as virtuous, and people are turning on each other instead of their proper enemies. Charity is a great way to remind a victimized person not to self-abuse and that our honor and humanity dictate we stick together in tough times when they’re being tested most.
5. It begins a ripple of kindness and passion.
Elon Musk has said many times that he explicitly tells shareholders that profit isn’t his main concern (despite his huge profits). He believes in a vision and pursues that, and these visions are about doing what the future needs (space colonization, solar power, electric transportation, etc.). In other words, he is motivated by an ideal that he finds is worth getting up early for in the morning. He expounds on this in this interview at 3:23.
Interviewer: Do we suffer from generally a kind of low level of ambition, should we think bigger than HS2 and think about something like this?
Elon Musk: I think so, I mean uh, for reasons beyond the objective ‘oh we’ll get there faster’, it’s like you want to do projects that are inspiring and that make people excited about the future. Uhm, life’s gotta be about more than just solving problems, so when I get up in the morning and say ‘yes, I look forward to that thing happening’, uhm, and I guess that was my essential disappointment with the California so-called High Speed Rail…
Elon Musk knows about the positive externality his projects have in beginning ripples of ambition and hope for young scientists. This is also a form of charity, just on a much larger scale than most people conceive of.
6. You never know how far someone can take your kindness.
Many times a donation can be life-saving, and there are many examples of this. So many, in fact that no one can hope to keep track of them. A blood donation, $20 in cash to a homeless person, or a toy for a child in poverty can have untold and vast benefits. No one really ever knows how far a person can stretch a single act of charity, but we do know that charity will always beat playing the lottery. The emotional payoff to the donator is certain and the lottery player gambles on feeling luck for winning and guilt for feeding a horrible cash cow that plays on false hope. If people are still playing the lottery or gambling, then it makes sense to take a chance on charity.
7. Charity doesn’t have to be money, it can also just be advice or guidance.
Charity isn’t just for those with those with wealth. Some argue wealth (which doesn’t have to be in money) is the result of virtues, virtues are the result of character, and character is the result of experience. If that is the case, the most impoverished are always the young. If by a single sentence we can send someone into a far superior direction that they would want, we feel a great deal of happiness for them.
8. It reminds us where to aim our intention.
Charity in all forms reminds us of the big picture. While it’s great to self develop and pursue our self interest from the perspective of our immediate surroundings, it’s easy to get tunnel vision sometimes and forget that there’s a much bigger picture we’re all a part of. Giving or receiving charity reminds us where to focus on our intention. While I can’t say I know what your bigger picture entails, I know that everyone has a bigger picture. Will humanity become a multi-planet species? Will we spread life around the universe? Will we focus on the important things and not get caught up in the petty conflicts?
Charity reminds us that there are much bigger things at play and that it’s not worth sweating the small stuff. When our intention is aligned properly and our worldview is accurate, we know what to do next.
9. Mentoring someone or rendering a service can reveal your own weaknesses.
Anyone who has ever tutored a younger sibling or peer at a school knows how valuable it is to tutor others. When we provide someone with guidance, it’s often profitable for us as well because the receiver asks questions that test the integrity of the guidance. Getting stuck explaining a philosophical concept or something from high school to a student is a very humbling experience, and it forces us to revisit concepts that we thought we knew thoroughly. Giving advice, services, or anything to anyone else out of charity is a great time to test ourselves with no threats of negative consequences.
10. It helps us all enjoy life, and is a potent medication for nihilism.
Charity helps both the needy and benevolent feel psychologically seen. It can be argued that this is what all of communication is ever trying to do as its end goal– to make people feel psychologically seen. Charity is a form of communication as well, which comes in the form of body language. Charity therefore helps us feel belonging both parties love the fact that the other party exists, and doesn’t want them to die away. Charity never happens automatically, it’s a voluntary choice everyone is aware exists as an option, and each time we engage in it, no one can take credit for it except us. Charity is an important component of our fight against nihilism, which everyone must face at repeating intervals. Much like our self-respect, our sense of belonging can be gained or lost by our choices.