I have recently joined Kiva, a non-profit organisation with the aim of alleviating poverty via microfinancing. What it boils down to is that Kiva makes it possible for us to lend money to those in need1,2.
When you want to make a lend money via Kiva, you can browse through a list of people who want to borrow money. When I was browsing through this list a few days ago, I became aware of the fact that I can only support a handful of people without creating an unstable financial situation for myself; the consequence of this is that that I have to choose somebody from the list of borrowers to lend money to. Then I became very aware of the fact that if I choose to give money to one person, I am also choosing not to give it to any of the other people. I suddenly found myself with an enormous feeling of discomfort.
Because I was not being very aware, my thinking took over and I started to subtly condemn myself. I started thinking that I’m a bad person for choosing which person is more deserving to borrow my money and that I’m not wealthy enough to support everyone. Guilt started piling up in me and, luckily, that’s when I became aware of the absurdity of my thinking. I had become judgemental about myself.
I backtracked to my feeling of discomfort and I asked myself what unmet need of mine is at the root of it. The answer was that I simply want to live in a world where people aren’t in (absolutely unnecessary) poverty. Realising that my feeling of discomfort was an expression of care for others made it go away.
I was not satisfied with the discomfort going away. I needed to know why I went on a guilt trip. I came to the conclusion that I became judgemental of myself because I became very focused on what I was not able to do, and forgot all about (1) what I was able to do and (2) that there is no reason to have regrets when I have done what I can. This was actually the exact same type of thinking that I made somebody else aware of a day earlier!
We want to help others because it is our nature to do so. We feel wonderful when we are able to help others. At the same time it’s also our inherent in us that we are limited in what we can do at any given moment. This should not stop us from doing what we can up to our limits. It my experience that we will feel content when we have done what we can.
1: I want to give one reason why I feel comfortable with lending money to those in need, instead of donating it. When I say that I want to help somebody, my intention is to help that person to become independent. When somebody borrows money, he does so with the intention repaying his loan. In order to do that, the borrower needs a sustainable way of earning money; this is one aspect of being independent. I’m not concerned about being paid back.
2: Incidentally, consider using my Kiva invite page if you are interested in joining Kiva. By using this invitiation link, we will both have the opportunity to lend an additional $25, provided by a sponsor of Kiva, to any borrower of our choosing.