Pay it Forward: Become a Supporter of the Work. Learn More
Picture this. A friend asks you for help painting their bedroom this weekend. You have a hectic schedule and a dozen projects of your own to work on, but you agree out of the kindness of your heart. They are a good friend, after all. You pat yourself on the back and tell yourself you did a great selfless deed. But is it really coming from a selfless place? It is not just the action of sharing that is important, but the intention behind it that matters.
"How do we know what our intentions really are?"
Most of us act with mixed intentions. We want to help our friend and make them feel good, but we are also looking for something in exchange. Sometimes we’re not even aware of this agenda. Perhaps we share with others to receive their approval, affection, or attention. Or, maybe we seek to give advice, because it makes us feel superior, or we listen to our friends’ problems in an attempt to escape our own. The ego can be quite tricky when it comes to achieving true selflessness!
The kabbalists teach that we are meant to reach a state where we are in alignment with the Creator, an infinite force of sharing that has no thought of receiving in return. Of course, to attain this kind of consciousness takes a lifetime of spiritual work. It won’t happen overnight. But the more we are aware of our intentions and the more we deliberately set our consciousness in the right direction, the closer we come to this goal, and more importantly to the Creator in the process.
So, how do we know what our intentions really are? It takes some deep soul searching and a commitment to being honest with ourselves. Here are 6 questions that can help you get in touch with yourself and find out where your intentions are coming from:
1. Do I expect anything in return?
Most of the time, when we do someone a favor, we at least expect a “thank you.” Or maybe we hope they will do the same for us in return. In the above example, we might help our friend paint his room knowing that we can use this as leverage later when we need help with a project of our own. When we do this, we are still thinking about what we get out of the situation, and so, we are thinking about ourselves on some level. Ask yourself honestly: Do I expect anything in return? True spiritual sharing is when we give not for the sake of receiving something in return, but so that we can grow closer to the Light.
2. Am I doing it for the warm and fuzzy feelings it gives me?
Sometimes sharing only enables us to get up on a spiritual high horse! Like we said, the ego is a tricky thing. We all want to be there for our friends in hard times, as a shoulder to cry on or to give them advice. But sometimes, we help others with their problems just to feel better about our own. It feels good to share with people, and there is nothing wrong with that! But when we do it in order to feel needed, loved, or important, we are essentially doing it to feel better about ourselves, and that is removing the focus from the other person.
3. Am I doing it for the ‘likes’?
This is a big one in today’s society! How many of us have done a truly selfless act like feeding the homeless or volunteering within our community, only to post about it later on social media? Within moments, we’ve gone from an act of selflessness to getting all wrapped up in how many likes and comments our good deed gets! Of course, doing it for the ‘likes’ doesn’t just pertain to social media. Consider an individual who has an opportunity to help out a Children’s Hospital. They can either: A. Donate anonymously, or B. Donate in order to have the east wing named after them! Before glorifying your deed on Instagram or nailing a plaque to the wall, consider not receiving any credit for the task. If you can let go of the accolades, you’re on the right track.
4. Am I doing it out of guilt?
Just like we do things to make us feel better about ourselves, we also sometimes do them to avoid feeling bad. If we don’t help someone, we know we might feel guilty or they might get angry with us. How many times does someone ask you to do something for them and you agree because you feel obligated? Sharing isn’t always easy, but if we only do it to avoid confrontation or negative emotions, our intention is not to bring joy, much less to get closer to the Light!
5. How easy is it for me to do?
Sharing doesn’t always have to be difficult, but when it is, it provides us an incredible opportunity to grow. For instance, a millionaire might find lending someone $20 easier than someone who is struggling financially. The size of the gift is the same, but it is a much deeper act of sharing for the less wealthy person, because they could really use that money for themselves. When we share with someone, even though it is difficult, purely because we want to give to them without thought for ourselves, that is a truly selfless act.
6. Am I thinking about what is best for the other person?
It’s important to remember that there are different forms of giving. Giving money to someone who has a terrible gambling problem might not be the best way to share with them, for instance. We don’t always know what the right way of sharing is for each person and each scenario, but as long as we approach the situation with love, compassion, and thoughtful reflection, we can at least ensure that our intentions are in the right place.
Answering the above questions with honesty can help determine how selflessly we are acting. For most of us, our sharing is not completely selfish or completely selfless, but we can at least start to see the distinction. We can begin to recognize how heavily we are leaning one way or the other, we can start making a change in a more selfless direction, and we can grow closer in our affinity to the Light of the Creator.
It’s something to think about the next time someone asks you for a favor!