Here is the conclusion to Why Giving Matters by Arthur C. Brooks. I know I will be thinking about these things for a very long time. I am so thankful that I have been given the opportunity to give. I invite you to join me and make a difference. Linda Garner
Dispel the Myths of Giving
So how else (besides buying somebody a briefcase) can you help other people give more today? First, you can help to dispel some myths about charitable giving.
Myth number one: Giving makes us poorer. You hear this all the time. This is what the economist like me thinks. It’s wrong, and you have to fight it. And there are arguments that say it’s not just the hand of God—at least not directly the hand of God. Instead, maybe it’s the hand of God through our neurochemistry, the way giving changes the structure of our brains. But there are good explanations for why this myth is not true.
Myth number two: People are naturally selfish. I hear this constantly. People are selfish, it’s true, but they’re not naturally selfish; people are unnaturally selfish. When we are our best selves, when we are in equilibrium, when we are where we’re supposed to be cognitively, neurochemically, and spiritually, then we are giving people.
Myth number three: Giving is a luxury. It’s not. It’s a necessity—the first 10 percent, not the last 10 percent. And the reason is that if we want to be better, we have to give.
Myth number four: You will hear in the coming days and weeks and months that if our country were doing what it should be doing for people in need, then we wouldn’t need private giving, that the government would be taking care of people who need it, and that we would not need you to step in to provide for others. I am here to tell you, having looked at the data, that the day the government takes over for you in your private charity is the day we get poorer, unhappier, and unhealthier. We must demand to take our place as givers and support the communities and people who need the services we can provide.
The second way you can help other people give more is to remember that somebody is always watching you. You’re always creating an example, and, as such, you’re a teacher. Make sure that it’s clear that you’re a charitable giver—and others will emulate you.
And a third way is to use your creativity to teach giving. How can we bring our creativity to bear more in our families, in our churches? How can we create a curriculum where giving is a core competency? We’re not very good at teaching giving; yet this is a core competency for successful citizenship and a happy life. We need to be better about teaching it.
We need to discover more creative solutions to working these concepts into our everyday life. This has changed my life a lot. When I was working on this research four years ago, I came home with a chapter from a book that showed these data analyses. My wife read it and said, “I think this is really something. I think we can use this.”
“Yeah, we should give more,” I answered. “We should write bigger checks. We should take this seriously.”
She said, “No. I think we should do something bigger. I think we should adopt a baby.”
And I said, “Sweetheart, it’s only a book.”
But I had no argument. We had to do it. And we did it. It was the best thing we ever did. And that changed our life even more.
I promise you that this really works. Either because of God in heaven—or because of our neurochemistry. But it really works.
I’m a happy prosperous person because I live in a country with people who serve. Because you give to your churches and the causes that you care about in Utah, I have a richer, happier, and healthier life (even though I live in Washington, D.C.). For that, I thank you.
Arthur C. Brooks