Doing Good: Out-giving vs. Out-getting

Don’t focus on equity. Do good for everyone without concern for what you're getting.

Do you tally when you’re the one giving the most? Most of the backrubs? Most of the chores? Most of the forgiveness? Taking on most of the burdens? Who’s getting and who’s giving? Does it seem like all the beads are on the other side of the abacus?

Are you trying to even things out by withholding that backrub because you didn’t get one? Suddenly no one gets a backrub.

Are you going slower on your project because the others aren’t pulling their weight? Is the project getting done?

Is the world a better place?

Keeping score

Here’s a premise: Don’t focus on equity. Do good for others without concern for what you’re getting.

  • Your partner isn’t giving you backrubs? Give them one anyway.
  • Your friend isn’t good at calling you back? Call them anyway.
  • Your co-worker is always negative? Give them a smile and encourage them anyway.

Don’t keep accounts. Keeping accounts takes energy that can be poured into doing good.

When we’re measuring, we’re constraining, pulling in and worrying that it’s not fair. It’s not about fair. It’s about doing good in the world. Good is not a battle.

Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”


Our competition is not about who can withhold the most – but who can give the most.

Taking care of the takers

What about takers? Aren’t we just rewarding their selfishness?

Don’t worry about being the rewarder or punisher – that takes you out of giving mode. Those that suck in resources without letting anything flow out will eventually not receive as much – from anyone. It’s not about making a decision not to give to them. You don’t have to withhold. You’ll naturally invest where the good you do is flowing out and doing even more good.

Good is a good investment. Stay focused on the good.

I spent 4 years in a relationship with a taker. He was always looking for how he could get more out of any situation. He was always (and only) looking out for his own interests. The goal for him was to get more than he gave. It’s certainly one way to go through life. But it’s certainly not the most feel-good way.

Generosity flows toward those that are giving.

What about abuse?

This doesn’t mean we are to lavish those that are abusing us – rewarding the abuse with our time and resources. If your client isn’t paying, don’t keep doing more unpaid work. If your partner is abusing you, don’t keep bending over backwards and allowing them to do more harm. If your relative isn’t willing to work, but expects everyone else to pay their way, they’re abusing the hard work of others. If someone is an addict, this is not about being their enabler. You’re not giving anything useful when you give to an abuser.

This is not about signing up for continued abuse. It’s about creating generosity.

The spirit of generosity

Generosity: the habit of giving freely without expecting anything in return.

The way to teach and spread generosity is by being generous. Pretty soon you’re trying to outgive each other. What a wonderful place to be.

What extra can you give your clients and customers? How can you provide more than is expected? Say kind things, do useful and helpful things, be the unexpected good in other people’s worlds. Don’t just return favors — look for opportunities to be the good in someone else’s day wherever you can. Even when others have done nothing to “deserve” it.

Surprise them. Delight them.

Notice the good that others are doing in your life, be thankful for it (and express that gratitude). Pay it forward and do good in everyone’s life. It’s our way to make life and our world better.

Our job is doing good. Be utterly impractical about it. Do huge and crazy good. Do tiny, momentary good. Do good that stretches your boundaries. Do good that is right in your comfort zone. Give of your strengths and talents. As you make more and more room for good, bad has no room to flourish.

Looking to expand your world and do good for strangers? Here’s some giving opportunities:

Subjects and ideas for doing good from TED talks (and the number of talks for each subject):

This guy in India is an amazing inspiration.

What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”

—Albert Pike

Something for you

Please share a memorable bit of good you’ve given or received or an opportunity to do some good. I’ll give The Life Organizer: A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year — a beautiful, full-color book of life-changing inspiration and planning — to one of the commenters. The giving will happen a week from today if we have at least five commenters (or we’ll wait until we do – while this blog gathers momentum). If you think this post was valuable to you and you’d like to get your friends in on the fun, I’d be honored if you’d pass it along to them. Help me give away stuff! I’ll add more items if I get a dozen comments and even more if it goes over thirty.

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