The Maze of Philanthropy

by Renu Gulati May 31, 2020

They take the paper and they read the headlines. So they’ve heard of unemployment and they’ve heard of bread-lines. And they philanthropically cure them all by getting up a costume charity ball Frederic Ogden Nash, American writer and poet

How real is your philanthropy? When you give someone your time as a professional, to help that person develop personally or on the job, do you expect to be paid or have some sort of barter for the work that you do?

Barter and philanthropy don’t go hand-in-hand. So, if you are expecting something in return for your good deed, then your act of kindness may not be entirely altruistic.

If you are a true philanthropist, maybe, you won’t expect an exchange. Your offering will be unconditional. However, my question is who is a real philanthropist? Maybe, for the purposes of all external appearances, you are a philanthropist, but not really from a deep, inner perspective.  

In my experience, most people are outer philanthropists. Then, again, there are two types of even these:

First, those who want name and fame for being ‘so kind’. This, in turn, helps them market themselves. 

Second, there are others who have low self-esteem and don’t value themselves enough to ask for money for the work they are doing. The ‘spiritual’ and ’wellness’ communities thrive with both these types of people. Why, is that so, you might well ask.

The answers, too, are not far to seek. Often, those who enter these communities have had major psycho-emotional problems and they wish to heal as well as improve their sense of low self-worth. So, it seems that their motive for philanthropy is for rather personal, if not selfish reasons. Because of this feeling of low self-worth, they find it difficult to ask for money, as they think that people might feel that they are not providing ‘goods’ and ‘services’ of the expected quality or level.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not cynical and I do believe that the real philanthropists do exist. Most do their philanthropic work quietly, disguised almost. But my view is that even they can go wrong, as over time, they may damage their psycho-emotional health by not being true to themselves or being transparent enough with others. 

In the 5,000-year-old Ayurveda texts, philanthropy that is well within your means is recommended for better mind-body health. However, it would be good to look at your own real motivation for this work.

I know ‘ false philanthropy’ goes on in all realms of life.  But I find it particularly sad that those who think that they are on the path of authentic philanthropy may actually be further enmeshing themselves into a maze of lower self-esteem and self-deception.

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