Giving Vs. Holding Back

Ecclesiastes, 3

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, And a time to die;
A time to plant, And a time to pluck what is planted;

A time to kill, And a time to heal;
A time to break down, And a time to build up;

A time to weep, And a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, And a time to dance;

A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;

A time to gain, And a time to lose;
A time to keep, And a time to throw away;

A time to tear, And a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, And a time to speak;

A time to love, And a time to hate;
A time of war, And a time of peace.

People certainly can be helpful and kind. However, a distorted view of the meaning of  kindness and compassion can create problems.

Let’s look at a few mistaken views about doing good.

One mistaken view is that a good person should provide whatever is wanted by someone who claims to be in need. Another such view is that a good person can always tell when another is genuinely in need. A third mistaken view is that anyone who refuses to give to a person who claims to be in need, is selfish and evil.

Every parent knows this is nonsense. Denying a sweet treat to your child just before dinner does not make you evil or selfish. And yet, if that child grows up to be an addict, will you always bail him out when he gets into trouble? I know of one mom who did that, right up until her son died at age fifty, of drug and alcohol addiction. Other mistaken views exist, but that’s enough for now.

Referring to the Bible verses, let’s say there is a time to give and a time to hold back. Failure to understand this principle will inevitably produce problems. Nations which do not understand this principle will have enormous problems. This is happening today.

Is it not a question of the ability to tell one situation from another? Are you able to distinguish between people who deserves help due to circumstances beyond their control, versus those who are trying to deceive you? Is it also a question of a twisted sense of entitlement, justice or guilt?

In the Judaeo-Christian tradition, balance is an important idea. In addition to being a kind and compassionate giver, we are taught that it is equally important to exercise good judgment. In some situations giving is not called for. In those cases the person who appears to be in need actually needs to be urged strongly to take responsibility for herself, if she is able to think through her problem. Thus, giving would be a form of enabling. This makes the other person dependent and weak. Giving that person what he wants would be against that person’s long-term good: the development of self-reliance, pride in accomplishment and maturity. 

If you think you’ve had a problem connected to over-extending yourself in any way, and if you would like to address it in person, feel free to reach out. You can call me directly at (219) 309-3928. It would be a pleasure to be of service.

For more thoughts click Responsibility and Boundaries

Thanks for reading!