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Without Reward

Kabbalah Centre
November 9, 2015

Most of the time, praise feels good. So good, that when we get it, we often want more. We live in a culture that singles out individuals and rewards them for what is deemed exceptional accomplishments. For example, there are so many award ceremonies in the entertainment industry that we now call this period of a few months, “awards season.” And consider the lengths to which athletes will go to compete against other countries in the Olympics. So, it’s no surprise that we often desire recognition when we do good things in the world.

Recognition can be a powerful motivator. It encourages us to continue working hard or sharing generously with others. But what about when our actions go overlooked? Will we feel just as inspired to strive for greatness?

Kabbalists teach that the highest form of charity is anonymous giving, that is, when the giver and recipient are unknown to each other. Problems arise when we want to share with others, but also feel the need to tell others about our actions. And it is more temping than ever with the increase of social media platforms, which makes it easy to share our accomplishments and good deeds instantaneously. We can share our news about placing in a marathon or volunteering our time at a children’s hospital with the tap of a finger. And when we do, it’s common to receive cheers from our close friends and family, along with acquaintances, friends we haven’t seen in years, and complete strangers. However, would our successes be any less significant if no one knew?

Of course not. The Kabbalah Centre teaches us that generosity, hard work, and acts of kindness are always worth it. Each time we put the needs of another before our own, we bring more Light into the world. Each time we donate our time, money, or resources to a righteous cause, we bring more Light into the world. And each time we strive for greatness, we bring more Light into the world. Resist the temptation to make your goodness known. “Never expect reward or recognition for giving charity,” says Michael Berg. “If you really feel the need to get recognition for your support, you can take some satisfaction in knowing that your righteous action will eventually be known no matter now well it’s been hidden.”

There is nothing wrong with awards ceremonies or acknowledging the outstanding achievements of others, however, praise can be a trap when it becomes the overwhelming motivation for continuing to do good work in the world. "Ideally,” says Michael Berg, “we should keep those who are not directly involved from knowing too much about our spiritual life—especially our acts of sharing—for anonymous good deeds reveal the most Light."

Sharing is a powerful act. Yet, it is most effective when we do it quietly and with humility. Allow yourself to feel good from the inside out when you have worked hard or behaved selflessly, instead of from the outside in. Blessings will come to us whether anyone knows of our positive actions or not. Sharing is naturally worthwhile, not because it earns you praise and recognition, but because it brings more Light into the world and into the lives of those with whom we share.