how to give without expecting anything back

How Do You Give Something Without Expecting Anything Back (Yet Get More Than You Gave)?

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Estimated Read Time: 13 min

I gave out all my savings, and I felt a different kind of happiness – I felt free, proud, nostalgic, grateful, humble, and eager to make more than I gave. I also felt comfortable and had a deeper sense of satisfaction spending on myself afterward.

To most people giving money, effort, time, or attention are costs or losses. 

They feel, “why do I get to lose it?”, or “why don’t I get more of it?”. They grumble, and lie in order to keep it. They want more from other people, but desire to keep theirs.

  • They don’t want work (but desire huge paychecks)
  • They don’t want to spend time on anything (but they desire people to pay them attention).
  • They don’t want to give their hearts in love, but want people to be head over heels for them.

On the other hand, those who learn how to give – who give with happiness, without expectations – feel giving is an opportunity. 

They think “I’m grateful I get to give to my family”, “I’m glad I can help my friends”, “I’m proud I created that”, “this was worth every second of my time”…

They live life hoping to find opportunities to give more. 

And, they find opportunities, because there is always an opportunity to give.

“Advantages of helping people include you being a good example for your children, family, and friends, and you having a direct impact on the trajectory of the lives of a lot of people.”

– Rafael Bettencourt

Is It Possible To Give Without Expecting?

It is possible to give without expecting returns.

But I also believe we shouldn’t be giving without expecting anything back. We should rather give without expecting anything back from the person(s) we gave.

It’s a question of mindset.

Asking people to give without expecting gives them the wrong notion that their giving might go to waste. 

Even though it is true that some people may not repay you, and that you should give without expecting, it is not true that your “giving”s ever goes to waste.

If others don’t reward you for your goodness, the very act of giving (when done cheerfully, or wholeheartedly) is a sufficient reward, and a good reason to keep giving.

Giving without expecting, doesn’t stop giving from being rewarding.

“If you offer your free time to help out at a charity or to read to an older person or simply to give someone something without ever expecting a ‘thank you’, it’s amazing how much more you are able to notice the blessings which fill your life.”

– Josh Austin

Why You Shouldn’t Give With Expectations

Giving and expecting things in return causes the gifted to feel you did it for your own selfish reasons – pretty how loan companies do their business. 

There is little goodness in this. And, the indecency of this is made bare when the person doesn’t reciprocate and you start feeling used, regretfully, or resentful.

Besides, when you hope for rewards – even if it is an investment or business venture – there is always a probability that it will fail. (There are no guarantees in life).

So, trying to give with your head – trying to calculate your returns – will corrupt your gift, and oftentimes fill you with anxiety.

“The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired. One of the great ironies of life is this: He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.”

– Gordon B. Hinckley

What It Means To Give Without Expecting

Giving without expectations requires you to believe and trust in the very act of giving – believing that giving is rewarding on its own – that it is already a blessing to give – that giving is something you are doing for yourself.

To the cheerful giver, giving ultimately becomes an act of planting happily, without knowing, or caring about which will grow or wither away.

This approach removes the friction, since you do it without minding who appreciates and who doesn’t.

It’s like they say, “The universe has this amazing way of giving back to those who serve first.”

Giving without expecting also means you will only give that which you are happy giving. Greed will not have the best of you – you won’t take high risks in hopes of high returns. 

And even though you will occasionally give to those who came with the intention to steal from you, you will never feel cheated because it was never a game to you.

“You can’t cheat an honest man”

– W.C. Fields

When you no longer put your trust in a person (to repay you for your good), but rather put faith in the very act of doing good, you do it so much more and with more joy.

And, humans and nature in general being notable for always repaying good deeds, will recompense.

Strangely, this reminds me of the Bible Scripture, “he who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully”.

When you think about it, luck becomes a close friend when you take more shots at helping others.

“Kindness and helping others will return to you when you least expect it, and maybe when you need it.”

– Catherine Pulsifer

The Difference Between Being Good And Being Manipulative

The difference – between being good and being manipulative – is the intent or expectation: When people do good with hopes of getting rewarded, it is being manipulative (or, at least, transactional).

This is why when someone is good to me, but cold and indifferent to others (especially when this person needs their help more than I do) I get very disturbed.

I wonder how they would treat me if they knew I couldn’t be of help to them in any way. 

“I don’t trust anyone who’s nice to me but rude to the waiter. Because they would treat me the same way if I were in that position.”

– Muhammad Ali

Heck! This is the dilemma with “Nice Guys”. They buy a girl everything, but for what reason? If she wasn’t someone they were looking to have sex with (or date), will they be so nice?

I dare to stretch it. If you were not such an obedient, intelligent, and respectful child, would your parents still do good to you?

It calls to question the sincerity of all the relationships you have.

Can your loved ones still love you if you were nailing them to a cross?

Will religious people give to a spiritual leader if they promised no prayers or miracles?

Garyvee always says something like, “most people are simply trying to be clever in the name of helping, and when their calculated kindness fails to get them what they hoped for, they get annoyed, bitter, and shit on goodness. But they were never good.”

How To Keep Giving Even When People Don’t Appreciate

I love Elon Musk, and how all of his companies are designed to help humanity in some way – be it from reducing CO2 Emission (with Tesla), reducing Traffic (with the Boring Company), or saving humanity from Extinction (with SpaceX).

But, do you know that there are a lot of people who hate Elon? Many people call all his attempts to literally save humanity a charade. 

This reminds me of the greatest story ever told. The story of Jesus Christ who came to die for the sins of humanity. 

According to the Bible, Jesus gave up his Godhood, leisure, safety, and even mortal life for humanity. But whilst at it, there were people who were stoning, slapping, spitting, and mocking him. Until, as we read, he was crucified by the people he was trying to save.

Look, when you want to do good, you have to stop thinking in the line of “what they have to give me in return”.

Rather, you want to think along the line of, “how would this goodness reward me”.

Yes, being good is not only beneficial to the person you are helping, but you too.

It may not be evident immediately, but what you give ends up hurtling back at you.

I’m not preaching God or Karma here. I’m just stating the facts: It is very hard for you to do good consistently without bettering the world around you. From evoking good will, to being trusted with more, your rewards will come in ways you can never envision.

How To Increase Your Capacity For Helping

Helping doesn’t always mean displeasing yourself to please others either. 

Yes, there are people who are able to put themselves at disadvantage gleefully. But for most people, for most of us, it is not something we can do often. 

And, it is not something I will encourage you to do, especially when you have not come to internalize the length, breadth, and depth of the benefits of doing good.

It is like being new to advertising. At first, you will be scared of losing your 100 naira. But, when you do manage to give that and get back 300 naira you will gain more confidence in advertising. 

By the time you start putting in 10,000 naira and getting back 50,000 naira, you would be praying for the opportunity to sink a million naira into the ad budget. (This is also how it is with helping).

You may not be capable of, or ready to invest a million naira into ads, just as you may not be able to give up your life (or life savings) for someone right now.

There are levels to everything, and each level would require an upgraded mind.

The mentality, strategy and attention you pay to running a thousand naira ads will not be the same when running a million dollar ad. This is the same for being good. To be able to be maximally good you will have to totally change your values and how you see things.

“There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

– John 15:13 (The Bible).

Why Do We Need To Give Without Expecting Anything In Return

If having people give you money or accolades is still your metric for giving, then you have a lot of growing up to do.

I am not saying this because I have reached the pinnacle of doing good. I am saying this because I have come to realize that being good pays in more ways than you can ever be good.

As you advance, you will realize that you do not even need anything anymore. You just want others to be okay. You just want them to stop suffering or stumbling, because if they are okay, you too will be.

“A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.”

– Nelson Mandela

In an audio commentary Mark Manson made mentioned that when he was struggling between deciding if he should self-publish his book and keep all the profit to himself, or get a publisher and split the profit, what changed his mind was when a publisher called him aside and asked him if he just wanted money, or wanted to impact lives with his book.

Maybe Mark made less money, but I am glad he chose to sacrifice the money so I got the book. You may not have been reading this post at all if Mark hadn’t made that decision.

Who knows how many lives your little, random act of kindness can affect?

“I wondered why somebody didn’t do something. Then I realized, I am somebody.”

– Unknown

How You Can Help

Perhaps it is time to mention that being good isn’t always about giving money, time, and attention to others.

You can simply be doing the world a favour by taking your studies seriously.

Imagine how much good you can do if you became a surgeon who would operate on people and save lives.

Or how many people you can help by figuring out the best policy or approach to ending world hunger.

What if you invented a technology that reverses aging? 

What if you helped sew a dress?

What if you made dinner?

What if you focused on being the best version of you (so there is one less deadbeat)?

What if you just didn’t do or say the hurtful thing?

What if the instant reward was their smile, or their not latching out?

What if the reward was peace and a sense of fulfilment?

What if it was simply that sense of importance and relevance you feel when you can help?.

“Set your heart on doing good. Do it over and over again, and you will be filled with joy.”

– Buddha

Just as you must breathe out to breath, you must give to receive the best things in life – because the best things in life often come as a gift. It could be love, recommendation, or a heartfelt gratitude from someone. 

Whatever the case, it is only when your giving is not corrupted by the expectation that you can receive those immeasurable and unforeseeable rewards.

“…when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing”

– Matthew 6:3 (The Bible).

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