Giving vs. giving back a distortion of the charitable act

By Maggie Thurber | For Ohio Watchdog

GIVE BACK: To give “back” implies returning something that isn’t yours – that’s a distortion of the whole idea of charity which is giving selflessly.

Thanksgiving is on a Thursday, then comes Black Friday followed by Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday and, since 2012, Giving Tuesday.

Giving Tuesday is a day to remember nonprofits and charities and, subsequently, make donations. New York’s 92nd Street Y in partnership with the United Nations Foundation started the observance, according to its official website.

Most of the ads for this newly created event encourage donors not just to “give” but to “give back.”

The GivingTuesday.org website says: “We have a day for giving thanks. We have two for getting deals. Now, we have #GivingTuesday, a global day dedicated to giving back.”

A USA Today headline reads, “3 ways to give back for #GivingTuesday.” WTOP radio in Washington, D.C., said, “Giving Tuesday: Ways to give back”

But it’s not just on Giving Tuesday. It’s everywhere.

The typical language used when some groups hold charitable drives isn’t just “give.” They add in the word “back,” which implies a return of something once possessed.

Nothing could be further from the truth, and the addition of the word distorts the true meaning of charity.

Think about children arguing over a toy. When one takes it from the other the cry is, “Give that back.”

Give back says “return what you have taken.” It doesn’t necessarily imply an object was taken without permission, but it does implicitly mean to return the object to the original owner.

So what, exactly, are you restoring when you’re urged to donate?

The money, or time, you are donating isn’t originally the charity’s. It’s yours.

The only way you could be giving back is if you’re a former recipient of the charity, and while there are many who might fall into this category, the appeal to give back isn’t just to former charitable recipients — it’s to all.

The addition of the word “back” is intentional and more pervasive than on just this one day or with donations to certain nonprofits.

Paying taxes is equated to giving back.

Business owners are told they should give back, as if the profits they’ve earned are ill-gotten or stolen from the consumers.

Even the president reinforced that idea with his “you didn’t build that” comment.

Politicians and candidates get in on the act when they say they’re running for office so they can “give back” to their community — as if they are somehow being altruistic in offering themselves to us as our leaders.

It’s a form of collectivism that says what you have isn’t yours because you earned it, or you created it. It somehow belongs to the collective so you must share it or return it to its rightful owner.

It’s guilt driven, counting on the giver to feel remorse for having what others may lack, regardless of how much the giver worked for it or sacrificed to achieve it.

That’s not what charity — true giving — is supposed to be about.

The Bible, in 2 Corinthians 9, says, “As every man purposeth in his heart, so let him give, not grudgingly or out of compulsion; for God loveth the cheerful giver.”

Other versions of the verse make the meaning clear: Give without regret and not because you are forced to.

Not all follow the Christian New Testament, but the moral teaching is shared by society with parents teaching their children to help others less fortunate, and giving is its own reward.

Charity is supposed to be a willing gesture. It requires you give something of yourself, whether time or treasure. It’s not something owed to others, as giving back implies, but something that comes from the generosity of your heart.

That generosity falls upon the recipient, too. When charity is received, it’s supposed to be accepted as the gift it’s intended to be.

If it is seen as a return of something previously owned, it is a debt or obligation that implies entitlement – the exact opposite of charity.

Reject the collectivist, entitlement, “owed” portion of the phrase and understand it’s OK “just” to give.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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