The nonprofit industry can be an industry of attrition, both materially and psychologically, and, what is perhaps a new thought: spiritually. Because we are dependent on the financial giving of others, while most human beings more readily understand the joys of receiving, we can often find ourselves financially impoverished. This constant struggle for support, in the context of our personal choice to give of ourselves in service of society, can often times lead to subtle resentment and even apathy when fully grown. This is our psychological impoverishment which no one wants to openly admit but which must be honestly addressed if we want to stay fresh, vibrant, and creative. Really?
Yes really. If we do not face, head on, the great spirit of attrition which permeates an industry which goes against the major human impulse to receive rather than to give, this spirit will infect all our work, including tainting our original good-will intent to give of ourselves. We will eventually come to see ourselves as fools carrying a fool’s burden, and we will eventually become restricted and guarded against the society we intended to serve in the first place.
Of course many of us will shun this thought. We will say to ourselves that this kind of defeatism is a sign that the person who admits to it never should have gotten into this industry at all, even while this infection is nipping at our own hearts. We will say that we need only be more creative, more willful, a better warrior for the good—even while as soldiers we are losing morale. And if we keep denying the truth long enough, we will become utterly compromised. Whether we admit it or not, we will begin to do our work just for our own livelihood. We will calculate that we have started on this path and we are better off just making a career of it till the merciful retirement years. And we will become utterly useless to society in spite of our open boast that we are here to serve society. We will tragically become not but parasites of apathy, victims of spiritual attrition. A spectacle of everything we originally set out against!
Wow! Pessimistic, ha? Off-putting even? Well, let me shine a ray of hope, but please don’t hold it against me if my hope comes from my spiritual tradition. I am not trying to proselytize, but am only offering my authentic perspective, as everyone should be free to find their truth wherever they choose.
When I think of my desire to offer myself in service of my society at New American Spring, I ultimately find that this inspiration comes from my Christian tradition. Jesus Christ, purportedly one of the very original Persons of the Trinity, co-equal with or but an aspect of God Himself, first set the example of servant leadership (John 13:14). God apparently created the universe (matrix) of the human family in such a way that in giving, everyone sees abundance, even the giver. The story of the feeding of the multitude with but three fish and two loaves of bread is an example (Matthew 14: 13-21). The spontaneous giving of the little child in this story inspired the rest to give what they had, and together, it was more than everyone needed. Giving inspires joy in the receiver, whose joy then inspires him or her to give back. And yes, even the person who dedicates him or herself to society is also responsible for continual giving if he or she will not degenerate in the manner outlined above. How?
If as a nonprofit leader you are in the throes of the spiritual apathy I outlined above, whether you want to admit it or not, I urge you to give of yourself to other nonprofit leaders and aspirers. Your spiritual apathy might tempt you to say, in your heart, “Why should others come into this impoverished industry to compete with me for grants?” But the truth is, the more you encourage diversity in this industry, and the more you give of yourself and your support to other aspirers, the more you will see a vibrancy and even abundance which will come your way, both within and without.
This is the spiritual paradox of giving!
If you say to yourself that you want to give of yourself to society but loose that generosity when the giving becomes a desert road, then perhaps your original intent was a kind of self-service in the first place. Perhaps you are no different than the members of society who can only understand the joys of receiving. Perhaps you were out for a sense of honor, of righteousness, of nobility?
Give, and you will receive! Not such a trite saying, after all.
New American Spring!
Revolution of Vision, Evolution of world…