practice true benevolence

When you give gifts, do you expect something in return? A thank you, a smile, a favor, or may be a return gift. 

If yes, then that’s not gift-giving, it’s a transaction… an exchange of services, isn’t it?

To practice true benevolence, you must cultivate extreme selflessness. When you give in the hopes of getting something back, you tarnish the sacredness and spirit of that act. As Robin Sharma writes, “What makes giving a move that’s so wonderful that it borders on the mystical is the intention with which you give it. And if you want something back, you pollute the beauty of the present that you are giving.” Sharma further guides, “To be a benevolent person [or leader, producer, creator, performer] is to do what you do in purity. For the right reasons. In high integrity. Only for the good of other people.”

As a human, it’s hard not to want that recognition, that applause, that credit, that gratitude, that acknowledgement, that pat on the back. But it’s wise and noble to detach from those outcomes and instead focus single-mindedly on giving with a pure and generous heart.

“When you’ve done well and another has benefited by it,” Marcus Aurelius wrote in Meditations, “why like a fool do you look for a third thing on top—credit for the good deed or a favor in return?” It’s natural to look for that third thing, but you must overcome this drive if you truly want to become a superior human.

Give because you want to give. Help because you want to help. Do good because you want to do good. That’s it, no strings attached. 

When you start giving for the sake of giving, not getting, and when you let other people’s rewards be your rewards, you become a rare force of benevolence and selflessness that’s much needed in this world today.

PS: If you enjoyed reading this essay and are inclined to learn the essential tools and strategies of Stoicism in these uncertain and difficult times, I encourage you to read my eBook Stoic Life which is the third book in the Meditations for the Learning Mind Series. Through this book, you can be in tune with the Stoic philosophy on a daily basis as you face the challenges of everyday life with practical wisdom and inner fortitude. The wisdom of great philosophers such as Epictetus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius as well as modern authors such as Ryan Holiday and Donald Robertson has been distilled in a form that is easy to digest and consume (even if you’re not a reader!).  The condensed timeless knowledge in these meditations will guide you in navigating through the complexities that come with modern living, and help you in your quest to living a virtuous and meaningful life, especially in this global health crisis.