Most of us would probably agree that giving people exactly what they want isn’t necessarily going to be good for them. “Be careful what you wish for” is a term most understand when they hear it. In the process of trying to help other people, using the ‘edifying’ lens is going to help us ensure that ‘the way’ we’re helping actually turns out to be helpful. “Give a man a fish, feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” might just be the whole crux of the point I’m trying to make, but allow me to provide a little more clarity in application and result, to be sure that even when we’re ‘teaching’ it’s going to be what’s best.
First point is, don’t assume you even can help, but offer a willingness to do what you can, regardless. What people need very often seems to be beyond our capacity to provide, but if we’ve already done our part to ensure we’ve been edifying ourselves, then we should have sufficient surplus to offer those we come across who might need a hand, at least a willingness to help in whatever way we can. Stopping to help people on the side of the road even when you know less mechanically than the average joe, is an example I often find myself re-contemplating. Most cases people don’t need to want the help, but also in nearly every single case, they’re grateful and evidently appreciative of the offer. Hearing things like “you’re the first person to pull over and I’ve been here for two hours” is always less pleasant than hearing “I’ve had four cars pull over and offer to help already”. How much good is too much good? If we’re offering what we can but only 10% or even 1% of people actually turn out to need it, should we dial back our future offers by 99%?
Second point is, make sure you have been edifying yourself, if you expect to be meaningfully helpful. Helping people with the issues that matter most, usually involves complicated and sensitive topics where it’s much easier to offend or be disrespectful if we’ve accidentally treated the matter at hand too lightly. If we want to expect to be sufficiently sensitive to the needs of others, we need to be ensuring we’re sufficiently sensitive to our own needs. We need to sort out our own beliefs, our own philosophies and get properly grounded with our own conscience before we can expect to help others sort themselves out.
Now this does include everyone but the further up the priority list we go in our circles of stewardship, the more it matters. Aside from ourselves, a spouse is going to benefit or suffer the most, depending on how well we’re sorting ourselves out, before we go helping others sort themselves out. Self improvement is commonly about identifying the false-truths or lies we live by and removing them while pursuing new or more correct truths to live by. We can’t force anybody else to do that, but if we want to help them do it, we’re going to need to have real, personal experience with at least that process. but it would also help if you had the personal experience relevant to the truths the individual your trying to help is struggling with. The more we’ve traversed the mountain, the more help we can offer others doing the same. Example trumps instruction.
Third point is offering opportunities over answers. Giving people the capacity to do the work themselves is more edifying than doing the work for them. The more they’re involved in the process, the more experience they’re going to have and the more repeatable their success is going to be without us, once we’re gone. We want to provide ‘capacity to improve/level up’ more than the improvement itself. Doing so aims to provide additional hope sufficient to engage the individual in further exercise and growth, again, after we’re gone.
Fourth point, as discussed in ‘function & excess’, we need to make sure when we’re helping others, our investment is coming from our ‘excess’, it isn’t coming from our function. Contributing via surplus also seems to have a greater buying power than contributing from our ‘function’, as it works better to ‘free’ others from their own dysfunction, than when we’re just adding another ‘repayment loan’ to their existing debt/struggles. If we contribute from our function, we WILL want our payment back, and that additional debt doesn’t help. When we know we can afford to give what we give, we’re able to do so without ‘strings attached’, allowing the recipient to completely waste our offering if needs be, without it creating us any additional burden or debt. The more we ‘need’ that offering back in some fashion, the less ‘free’ the recipient is to repay and the less good it can do both of you. Contributions from ‘excess’ seem to have more power, more influence for good, more quality, somehow, than contributions from our ‘function’. If we want to help others best help themselves, our offering to them needs to be free of strings.
When we use our surplus to help alleviate the function of others there is an objective superior to just freeing them from their challenge. It’s better to do so with an invitation to participate in the strengthening required to more effectively manage their own function, going forward. Just freeing people from their struggles can too easily rob them from the experience required to learn from the difficulty. If the struggle is real or great, it’s not better to void the struggle entirely, but perhaps ‘re-write’ the debt/provide terms that are more hopeful than their current situation (if hopeless), so that they can still struggle and therefore ‘grow’ out but do so with more determination, hard work and hope that they would otherwise be contributing (or not contributing) if they feel that their situation is hopeless.
Now I’m also going to ‘put a pin in this’ as there remains a rabbit hole I’ve yet to sufficiently explore in the good that can be done when we’re volitionally offering of ‘even our function’ but suffice it to say that despite there being potential for great good in doing so, the criteria one has to meet in order to do so effectively seems to be much more stringent and I’m not going to go into detail with it just yet. If you already know and understand, great, advise me when you get the chance, if you remain as unaware as myself however, I’d probably suggest you leave it for now, sticking only to utilising your surplus to ensure you remain functional enough to continue serving those most reliant on your stewardship.
Optimising contribution value via circles of stewardship then prepared soil.
So generally speaking I would advise that we direct our contributions first to those within our circles of stewardship, according to whatever priority order we have deemed most appropriate. A hiccup, that can occur, is when we realise that sometimes others, outside of our primary circles of stewardship, are better prepared than those within. If we only have so much to give, sometimes those without can make better use of what we have to offer than those within. So a seeming contradiction can appear, as we debate optimising our return on investment. Should we invest into our spouse, or children, or maybe more in our children’s friend, or our work colleagues, or into our social clubs, when they seem to be responding better to our efforts and appear to provide a ‘richer soil’ for the good we’re trying to offer our world.
In these situations I would definitely advise that we prioritise stewardship over ‘better prepared soil’. Even if ‘others’ are getting more value from what we’re offering, it’s important that we remember that our expenditure says more about us than our earnings or the earnings of others. Allow those in our stewardship to be the ones who limit our contributions to them, instead of limiting them ourselves. Despite contributions to less important circles seeming to be more rewarding, we won’t be able to prioritise those we have less stewardship over, above those important people, without betraying our own conscience.
Once the more important circles have been appropriately taken care of, certainly, invest away in those less important circles that seem more appreciative of the offering, but don’t let that point allow us to mess with our priorities. Remembering the concept of ‘multi-purposing’ we’re often able to address the needs of the latter while have appropriately addressed the needs of the former.
Four categories of receivers
As time progresses we actually find at least four categories of ‘receivers’ we can contribute to with seemingly different degrees of ‘good’ being accomplished by each.
One is those who don’t really value the gift highly, or perhaps can very easily give the same back to you. These people won’t benefit from the gift as much as others and as such should default to wherever they sit on our circles of stewardship.
Two is those who appreciate the gift but genuinely struggle to return something of equal value, back to you, or perhaps are entirely incapable of doing so. These will be more grateful than the first, and should be prioritised where possible, without deprioritising more important circles. Sometimes people genuinely feel that they don’t have the resources available to dedicate to their own progress. It might be advantageous to voluntarily free up some of their resources with no conditions (don’t condition your gift on their acceptance of your help/guidance/advice etc.); simply leave them with an opportunity to utilise the help if wanted. Again, keep it ‘no strings attached’, remembering the increasing buying power of surplus over function. Keep them free of the weight and burden of repayment, encouraging their independence and freedom, allowing them a greater capacity to pursue their own edification and allocate their newfound resources to increasing their function so that they can eventually repay but more importantly, pay forward contributions of equal value.
These people are likely going to be more committed to edification than the others. Offering what they can based on what they have, even if they only have a little. Remember that edifiers are committed to the personal growth required to enable them to constantly offer more than they require. Their in > out. Higher output ratios. Sowing as much as they can while reaping as little as they need and helping others to learn to farm in the process. They understand that the very purpose of sowing is to create a way for as many people to reap as possible, that all can be benefited by it. It doesn’t make sense to take from their reaping for the purpose of sowing more oneself. An edifying steward will say: “For every $1 you give me I can make $3 and will happily give you $2”. Those desperate to repay our contribution, valuing it so highly, are much more likely to pursue edification and follow our footsteps of contributing even to those who can’t repay.
Three is those who couldn’t care less and have no interest in utilising the gift or repaying it at all. Contributions to these people should be limited to where they sit amongst our circles, continually offering what we can to the extent they are within our stewardship, but otherwise minimised. If they are a priority stakeholder, we should not stop offering what we can, even if they remain disinterested, we should remain as interested as they allow. Again, let them be the one to limit our contributions, not us. We should do what we can to persuade them to pursue edification but otherwise keep contributions minimal if their set on gratification. Gratifiers reap too much, too early, too quickly and too unjustly (where they haven’t sown). They sow too little, too late, too slowly and too begrudgingly. They sow as little as possible and then reap as much as they can. Their output ratio is negative. Out < In. For these reasons we should be careful that our contributions aren’t just feeding gratifying habits.
Four might be a little surprising, but it’s ‘the bad guys’, or ‘the enemy’. The people we don’t seem to get along with, and even the people who seem to intentionally rub us the wrong way or blatantly grief us. Although I would hope such individuals are pretty far down on the list within one’s circles, I remain aware that sometimes such isn’t the case. Just like category three, if their in our stewardship, let them be the ones to limit our contributions, but continue ensuring our expenditure is as aligned to our priorities as it can be. To the extent we can do good for those who we really struggle to feel are ‘worth it’, this is when we really need to make sure our contribution is only coming from excess. Donating any degree of function will only build further resentment and do neither of you any favours. Remembering that we are all but progression away from each other, and that our stewardship never ends, it only thins, we have a responsibility to remain willing to help anyone, to the extent we can. Even more than that however, there remains a powerful influence for good within the act of doing good for those who are openly doing you evil. Once again, remembering that we’re all but progression away from each other, what the ‘bad guy’s really need is a wake-up call to help them snap out of their blinding gratification long enough to see better, and the contribution we provide may just be enough to satisfy their dysfunction and allow them sufficient excess to once again start improving their function.
I’ve addressed this already but to summarise momentarily: the more we understand the concept of edification the more we appreciate that the best route to take to increase our own capacity to be good is often found in through helping others to do the same, to increase their own capacity to be good. For this reason I acknowledge a discrepancy in my book. It feels as though “edifying others” is a small section towards the end of the book” when in reality, it would appear the be the primary way we should pursue to edification of ourselves.
Hopefully the way I’ve worded the other sections suggests this with sufficient clarity that when we then go about the pursuit of our own edification, we’re smart enough to stack up our ‘multi-purpose’ objectives and go about edifying others, as our main route. We do need to be on the path ourselves, first, before we can expect others to follow our example, so get that going, get committed, and get to work. While working, start focussing on edifying others, perhaps? Look it’s not all crystal clear to me yet either, it’s all just concepts I’ve discovered along the way and am trying to decode and identify their separate and collective applicability, just the same as everyone else 😛
At the end of the day, we’re all stewards. This means we all have a responsibility to positively influence ourselves and others to effectively use what we can (i.e. our surplus/excess) for those in our stewardships, which includes decreasing their dysfunction and increasing their function by minimising their gratifying expenditure of their own surplus to decrease overindulgence and waste and maximise their edifying expenditure. Think about that when you’re doing your estate planning, your birthday or Christmas shopping, your children’s weekly allowance review, trust funds, holiday planning etc. We all want to help each other by how much of what we’re offering is really just further fuel to gratify ourselves and how much is incentive to edify? How helpful, is our help, really?
I argue that if we’re not edifying them, or better yet, helping them edify themselves, we could and should be doing better.