The Truth About Giving

I have been in a few Facebook discussions about “giving.” The latest one was about the implied social contract with gift-giving. You give a gift; you receive a gift. This inevitably led to the idea that it’s wrong to expect a gift in return for a gift; that this is not really giving. Then the phrase “selfless giving” comes up. The idea of giving without anything expectations of something in return.

There is this group of people that think if it’s not “selfless giving” than it’s inferior and in some cases, even evil. The specific example someone mentioned was a corporation taking a tax deduction from their charitable donation. That doing so made the action not charitable or good in any way.

These people are idiots. There is no such thing as “selfless giving.”

Everybody gets something back from giving. Everybody. It’s the reason that giving is even a thing.

With few exceptions (and they all include some sort of mental health issue), everyone feels good when they give something to someone. Giving other people happiness makes us feel happy. Helping take away someone’s pain makes us feel good inside. This is an automatic thing, and when we give something, we come to expect it.

Now some of you are going to argue that giving can be painful. Giving someone money for food that you were going to use for something you need is a painful thing. Yes, there is pain, but there is greater pleasure in the act of taking away their suffering. If giving cost emotional pain instead of the pleasure we get now, giving would not be a thing.

So internal rewards are something everyone gets. Let’s discuss external rewards. Just like internal rewards, these will encourage people to give more. Even if the person is only giving to a charity so that others will view them more favorably, they are still helping people. People who need help are getting help.

Let’s go back to my example of taking a tax deduction. Now some people may not understand specifically how this works, so let me explain. If you donate one thousand dollars to a charity, you do not get to reduce your tax bill by $1000. You reduce your taxable income by $1000. This reduced your tax bill by around $250 to $300. They are giving $1000 to save $300; not good economics.

But consider this. Let’s say the small business owner can afford to give $700 to charity. With the tax deduction, she can give a full $1000 to the charity and get the $300 of her tax bill. Without the tax deduction, she can only give $700 to the charity. The tax deduction encourages her to give more to the charity.

Yes, there are sociopaths and narcissists who only give so they can receive awards and accolades. They want people to think they are better than they really are. But the people who receive the aid are the ones who benefit most. So if you attack people for not giving “your way,” you are hurting the people in need and no one else.