Before he could read or write yet, my son would volunteer me to give. When the car stopped at an intersection, the rear passenger window opened just enough to have my child committing financial resources to a stranger holding a sign. I think this is the real reason for child locks on automobiles. Just so you know, I feel keenly the concern and the need for those who are in need, I just want the opportunity to first adjust my motivation. I never really had a chance to volunteer a few dollars at the Salvation Army stand at Safeway because my son would race across the parking lot ahead of me. By the time I caught up to my child, my CFA (Chief Financial for Altruism) had already bargained and organized a contract. I’m not a scrooge or a tightwad, but I appreciate the opportunity to think through my motives.
Do you ever find yourself ruminating about the motivations of “do-gooders” in society? What is the real motivation behind the acts of goodness?
If you have attended meetings of any organization, there is usually a published agenda. Have you heard of “Robert’s Rules of Order?” Who was this “Robert,” anyway? This commonly adopted process for conducting orderly meetings was crafted by Brig. Gen. Henry M. Robert in 1876. He was a military man, and with all due respect I submit that it may be time to revise how we do meetings. Let’s spice it up a little! Wouldn’t it be great to tack on a portion of time to address the “hidden agenda?”
It is often in the back of our minds to consider why we do what we do. Whether it is a personal gift or a good deed, or even an act of service — What is the underlying reason? Faith communities might prompt good deeds by short reminders, such as, WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?) or The Golden Rule. Still, what is the hidden agenda? I confess, my motivation is cluttered with many impulses for my “do-gooder moments.”
“I want to feel significant.” Whether it is the need for pleasing people or avoiding the sense of shame for being a dirtbag, there is a personal drive for making a difference.
“If you want your voice to be heard, your walk should follow your talk.” Politicians, executives, and leaders in society know that people are watching, so with “be seen” there is no doubt that service has a marketing side.
“I will feel a sense of guilt and shame if I don’t help.”
The key is to remind yourself that the mixed bag of intentions is shared by the deep and enduring motivations. Kindness. Selfless. Compassion. Duty. Justice. Hope.
I am not promoting duplicitousness, but if we were to wait until our motives were completely pristine, where would we be?
It is true that “I’m only human,” which only conveys that “being human” means that I’m not divine.
Although I’m new to the valley, I have already found myself inspired by beautiful acts, agencies, and efforts by which people care for people. This world has a dark side, a real selfishness, and it is a badly broken place, sometimes. So, don’t hesitate to do good because the motivation isn’t always perfect.
Sometimes I am compelled to be helpful because I hear my mom’s voice in my head.
Although she was taken by cancer last summer, her influence speaks and moves me to sign up because of a virtuous place, but also because my mom could frown me into any good deed!
Brain research tells us that acts of kindness release “happy hormones,” the good feeling chemicals triggered within our bodies. There is no filter of motivation in the brain — when we act benevolently it feels good.
Sorry, Bob (Robert’s Rules of Order), but I’ll confess my complicated motives are out of order, sometimes. One of Jesus’ disciples was questioned about the nature of an “unnamed” person who was doing wonders — in other words, “What’s the hidden agenda?”
To this, Jesus replied, “And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.” (Matthew 10:42)
Your reward awaits you this week. Don’t worry about the hidden agenda.
Troy Fitzgerald is the pastor at the Wenatchee Seventh-day Adventist Church.
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