In Friday’s post I know I said that once we start to do our karma yoga or our charitable deeds, it doesn’t really matter what our internal motivation is. Given that tis the season for holiday charity, I want to both agree and disagree with myself.
In a certain sense, “Fake it til you make it” works. If it wasn’t so, there are countless holiday movies about transformation and Christmas miracles that just would not have ever gotten made.
Even if you’re not entirely selfless when you sign up to volunteer down at the homeless shelter, chances are your heart will be touched, your eyes will be opened, your horizons will be broadened… what I’m saying is, you’ll learn stuff. It’s even possible that if you sign up to serve at a free medical clinic simply because you have a crush on the doctor who works there, that you’ll be transformed by the experience (insert holiday movie trailer with this or similar plot line here).
It’s even possible that if, instead of getting expelled from high school, you get “sentenced” to community service helping the former nurse at the free medical clinic who is now married to said doctor and runs an inner city at-risk youth center, you could learn a thing or two and be saved from a life of crime yourself (insert trailer for holiday movie sequel here).
What’s more, whether your intentions are as pure as the driven snow in Antarctica or not, if you are volunteering for an organization that is actively reducing carbon emissions in America, then you are saving that driven snow and the iceberg it is on either way. If people are getting fed, if the rainforest is being saved and if poor children are getting warm jackets, it is a very good thing. At that point, if the person giving the warm jacket did it just so they could look good at church, who cares?
In these ways, the underlying intention doesn’t matter.
However, there are also ways in which intention is everything. Maybe even the same ways.
Change and transformation is an INSIDE JOB. This is true both for our own small lives and the greater whole of the planet.
On the personal level, that means that no matter if our initial intention is 100% pure and selfless or not, we need to at least be internally open to grow and learn and transform. If we remain internally closed off and angry, then no amount of outer service can transform us. It is something we have to do from the inside. If we go through our mandatory service at the homeless shelter hanging on to our self-centered self-righteousness, we could see everything from our skewed perspective and just come out the other side with more prejudice and bah humbug. They don’t make holiday movies about this, but I’m sure it happens.
If you are a person who donates cans at Thanksgiving and volunteers at Christmas time, but act like a complete and utter jerk the rest of the year, you’re not really making the world a better place.
On the planetary level, if a person is giving a warm coat just to look good at church but hangs on to thought forms of class-ism and greed – the poor are lazy and it’s their own fault – then they are part of creating our society that makes that young child cold and hungry to begin with. If we want to not only put one jacket on one cold child, but transform our world and change mass consciousness, then the internal intention is key.
On another level that is a mix between the personal and the planetary – the energy that you put into something makes a difference.
If you stand outside your local grocery store ringing the Salvation Army bell and you genuinely pray to be an instrument of Christ’s love and to smile and spread holiday cheer to all who pass by, at the end of the day you will have collected 185 dollars and 28 cents and increased the amount of warm fuzzy happiness on the planet and made countless people feel a little more love. If, on the other hand, you ring the same Salvation Army bell at the same grocery store and you are stressed and self-absorbed, at the end of the day you will have collected 185 dollars and 28 cents period.
If you deliver Thanksgiving turkeys to low-income families and you do so with warmth and genuine love and care, you might turn a whole family’s year around. You never know the impact sincere intention can have on the world around you.
Likewise, the impact sincere intention can have inside of you is also very powerful, no matter the outer circumstances.
If you are sincere in your desire to help others and make the world a better place and you volunteer for an organization that turns out to be not as pure as your intention – it doesn’t matter. God sees your intention. The inner transformation you receive is according to your own inner sincerity. And the love and compassion you have spread into the world comes from the purity of your heart only.
If a good-hearted, fit and handsome young law student who is a little bit disillusioned with his family over the holidays, instead of going home for Thanksgiving volunteers at an orphanage that turns out to be a front for an illegal child labor ring, it can still turn into a big holiday action box office smash hit.
I don’t know why I keep going from deep inner most sincere intention to inspirational holiday movie plot lines. I guess it’s the way we learn things this time of year. So, whenever you’re curled up on the couch watching the holiday line up of movies, just keep your intention in mind and see what you might learn about goodness, charity and the magic of Christmas from a place of both outer service AND inner sincerity. Oh, and keep going all year round.
And here is a little something to help you on your way: