When my Helping has Hurt – a shared post of Sarah Binos

  Sarah Binos is the Executive Director of the Common Ground church initiative and non-profit known as ‘Common Good’ – she wrote this article ‘4 Common giving mistakes I’ve made’ on the Common Good blog page and you should totally go and read the full article, but here are some excerpts which stood out for me.   Instead of giving you a blueprint for giving – because there isn’t one! – here are some of the mistakes I’ve made in the area of giving. Hopefully this will equip others not to do the same! Mistake #1 I haven’t prioritised building relationships enough as I try to live out Christ’s call to do justice My friend explained how much it would have meant if her donor had been more like a distant aunt – who checked in with her occasionally and saw her as a person with hopes and dreams as opposed to a project. Mistake #2 In my attempt to “fix things”, I’ve communicated that “I am the adult and you are the child” Instead of engaging, asking insightful questions and giving the person I hope to bless the space to process and think through a way forward, I present a quick solution with a whole lot of uninvited advice. This can communicate the idea that I’m wiser, and...

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Businessman giving food to homeless man

What if we were able to give a homeless person a hand up?

To give or not to give? That is the question many of us ask ourselves when faced with a homeless person.  Ranging from “Surely I would just be fuelling their drink/drug problem” to “Well, at least I’m giving them something” there are clearly divided opinions on whether the ‘little we do’ is going to be of any kind of genuine assistance, or whether it is simply going to help keep them on the streets by creating codependency and reducing motivation to “go out and get a job”. Books like Toxic Charity and When Helping Hurts and others have addressed some of this in detail often leaving potential do gooders feeling confused and nervous about trying to help at all. That’s where HandUp comes in as demonstrated powerfully in this article titled ‘How a homeless person moved an audience of tech workers to tears at Launch conference.’: ‘HandUp is a relatively new service that lets you donate directly to homeless individuals in your neighborhood. 100 percent of the donations go to the essentials, like food, clothing, and medical care. What stands out about HandUp is the human touch: Individuals can share their stories and ask for specific items, like dentures or a new phone. Once they’ve signed up, HandUp members are provided with a profile card with basic biographical information, which they can...

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How do I judge my Charity?

In a world with so much suffering, so much pain, and so much grief, it is easy to become overwhelmed. But some folks push through.  They push through the paralysis of panic, and look for ways to help their fellow man.  You’ve been tempted with this phenomena.  You may not realize it, but you have been.  How do I know?  Because you’ve seen the panhandler with outstretched fist asking for spare change.  You’ve seen the TV ad explaining how you can feed a child for less than the cost of a cup of coffee.  You’ve watched someone you know, or heard the story of a friend of a friend that was in need of money. This post is not about the reality of whether you ‘gave’ or not.  (Personally, I hope you were compelled to ‘give’). But rather this post is about the more metaphysical question of whether you ‘should give’ or not. Did you know that giving can hurt?  Have you ever read the stories of individuals and communities who suffered greatly because of good intentions, but misdirected actions?  If you haven’t, I’d suggest that you check out either: (1) When Helping Hurts by Corbett and Fikkert or (2) Toxic Charity by Lupton.  Both should be available from your neighborhood Christian bookstore. Surprised to hear that ‘Christian’ authors...

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Feel Good Giving

Here’ s a bit of a lighter article asking how our giving makes us most happy. Although the experiments cited in the article are somewhat less than rigorously scientific, the article suggests that it really is more “blessed” to give than to receive. The authors go on to list three conditions under which prosocial spending (in other words, giving toward other’s benefit) thrives; namely, when it feels like a choice, when it connects us with others, and when it makes a clear impact. There are certainly many different avenues through which we can share our resources, from large multi-national development organizations to mid-sized local non-profits, through churches or directly to individuals. Our giving may be done in isolation or through collaboration. We may never know the end-recipient or we may be in close relationship with them. How do the three conditions suggested in the article – choice, relationality, and clear impact – affect how and why you...

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