Ben H. Swett
Temple Hills, MD
Jesus said, "Give to every one who asks of you, asking nothing in
return." He also said, "If you keep my commandments, you will
learn the truth and the truth will set you free." Okay, let's test
those two statements together. If you give to everyone who asks of you,
expect nothing in return, and notice what happens next, you will soon have
enough data to learn a truth about human beings: they don't all react the
This is the normal distribution of human reactions to a generous person.
It is a statistical truth, verifiable by personal experience. Learning this
truth can set us free from the notion that all human beings are alike, from
compulsions that lead us to pamper parasites and predators, and from the
weary cynicism that hardens our hearts and keeps us from giving at all.
- A few will see what you do, admire the generosity you represent, and
decide to go and do likewise. This increases the number of generous people
in the world.
- Some will be grateful and want to thank you. They may honor you and
praise you without trying to emulate your generosity, but "You are
welcome; it is my pleasure," is always a gracious response to gratitude.
- Most will want to repay you, either for the sake of their self-respect
or because they interpret their feelings of gratitude as a form of pain.
It is good to release them by suggesting they can repay you by giving to
someone else: "Pass it on."
- Some will take whatever you give and keep coming back for more. That
is why, if you obey this commandment, you can expect to find yourself surrounded
by an ever-increasing number of human parasites. They will beg and plead
and cajole and promise to repay--anything to get what they want. If you
allow them to do so, they will take everything you have, suck you dry, and
then treat you with contempt. It is neither kind nor wise to let them get
away with it.
- A few will step over the line between parasites and predators; that
is, from asking to demanding, from begging to coercing. If you ever refuse
to give them what they want, they will hate you. They will try to justify
themselves by saying you owe it to them. What they cannot get by begging,
they will try to get by twisting any handle they can find--especially your
desire to be a good person. What they cannot get by manipulation, they may
try to steal or take by force.
Knowing that this distribution is normal--expectable--is a mental tool we
can put into practice. It is good to give in secret because advertizing
our generosity attracts more parasites and predators. We usually do not
know in advance how a person will react, but where one is in this distribution
will eventually be revealed to us by what he or she actually does. Thus,
we need to be wise as well as kind, but kindness comes first and wisdom
second. "Give to everyone who asks" comes first, because we do
not know how one will react. Then after we see what that one does, we are
free to decide what we will do. We are not required to continue giving to
parasites or predators--that is neither kind nor wise--but we should not
let our own reaction to them stop us from giving to those who react in more
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