When is Your Generosity Unhealthy?

Generosity should always be a good thing, but the reality is that generosity “done right” will not leave you unhealthy and burned out because it is controlled by wisdom.

Generous people are often compulsive givers, quickly responding to the needs around them, even to their own detriment. It does not take too many years of a lifestyle of compulsive giving to leave one wondering why — when he (or she) has been such a good, caring person — he is struggling with exhaustion and resentment. Ever catch yourself wondering, “How can my life be so miserable and out of control when all I have done is spent my life helping people in need?” People with generous spirits often burn out due to not having healthy generosity. No, not all generosity is healthy; just as with every other area of your life, it must be controlled by wisdom.

A generous person who is also a religious person tends to be more readily trapped into a lifestyle of unhealthy, unwise giving.

As I have mentioned in prior posts, the life of a religious person that is unhappy and out of balance is often due to childhood teaching that is based on religious tradition rather than the truth of Scripture. Let’s look at a quote on giving that is frequently misunderstood due to religious tradition.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Phil. 2:3-5

This quote is used by religious tradition to promote a life of self abasement, or self neglect, when, in actuality, it is promoting a lifestyle of balance in the attitude of giving. First, it expresses the need for those who struggle with selfish ambition and pride to combat that unhealthy, imbalanced attitude by thinking better of others. The second sentence, used by religious tradition to make people feel guilty for taking care of their own needs, does not promote unhealthy giving that only looks to the interests of others. Look at the quote again, “Look not only to your own interests…”

The words “not only” mean 2 things are to be taking place — Yes, take care of your own interests (or needs), but remember to also take care of the needs of others. God does not say to only give to others’ needs and neglect your own interests; on the contrary, He says to take care of your own needs and the needs of others. It is significant that taking care of your own needs is mentioned first, as you cannot effectively take care of other people’s needs unless you first take care of your own so that you are a “whole” person.

To have a healthy, wise, and balanced lifestyle of giving, it is also important to remember that givers usually have difficulty discerning which situations are the other person’s actual needs.

A person who is a user/abuser tries to get out of his personal life responsibilities by promoting his irresponsibilities as needs. It is unwise and unhealthy for both people involved when a giving person takes care of situations that are the user’s personal responsibility. It enables the user to stay irresponsible and overloads and burns out the giver. If you need more information on these types of situations, use these links to read about it in detail.
Spiritual Guidelines to Stay Free From Abusive Relationships
Freedom Through Responsibility

Let’s look at one last quote that effectively describes healthy, wise, controlled giving.

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For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what he does not have. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality. 2 Cor. 8:12-14

The easiest way to explain this quote is to again paraphrase. If you have a willingness to give, you are to give based on what you have, so that you are not hard pressed. If you are depleted of both energy and time, you are “hard pressed;” you need to rest and be refreshed so that you will again be able to give of what you have, i.e. time and energy. If someone keeps expecting you to pay their bills and it is causing you to be “hard pressed,” it is not healthy giving. The person’s need may be real, but you are not the one to be giving at this time. Get the person in touch with a charity organization, food pantry, church, etc. which has avenues available to help needy people.

Take a self inventory to determine the healthiness of your giving.

How happy, rested, and refreshed are you now-physically, emotionally, financially, and spiritually? If you are exhausted, depleted, and struggling with resentment, it is time to step back and re-evaluate your giving. God doesn’t expect you to give until you are hard-pressed. He desires “equality” or balance in your life and relationships. Evaluate which areas of your life and relationships are unhealthy, out-of-control and causing you to be hard-pressed. Make the necessary changes so that you are refreshed and restored. Controlled giving is truly wise and healthy giving.

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