Worthiness - some are, most aren't
The issue of worthiness seldom comes up in discussion about charities or helping others. Our giving is usually based simply on need and nothing else. Well, I'm here to bring up this issue because I think it's important that we don't simply consider need.
In the absence of examining the issue of worth, and making decisions based on the idea of something or someone being worth our support, we're simply encouraging people to have less worth and greater needs. In other words, less individual responsibility and more dependency on others - not exactly a great resume or character builder in my book.
Before you jump all over me, let me explain with a little story that will help illustrate my point.
Example of Worthiness as a Contest Criterion
Not long ago, a friend of mine held a contest on his personal finance blog with the intention of giving away the prize money to someone who really needed it. I suggested that the criteria for awarding the money not be based on need, but worthiness. As I explained, too many of us don't know the difference between wants and needs, and if there is one phrase I've heard way too many times in my life, it's "I need some money."
I don't know if he followed my suggestion, but he certainly was intrigued about how someone might have plenty of need, but still not be worthy of being awarded the prize money. I think his interest in my suggestion was fueled by his deep personal dislike of consumer debt caused by financially irresponsible individuals - people who might be very needy in terms of financial assistance, but not deserving of it simply because they've brought it all on themselves.
What Does Worthiness Mean?
So, let's look at the idea of worthiness instead of need. Let's look at common examples and see if we might gain a bit of appreciation for giving our money to people based not simply on need, but on worthiness.
If we hire someone, we pay them based on what we think their assistance is worth. We look to obtain good value for our money. Regardless of how much someone might need the money, we can only assign so much worth to the labor. Once the person completes the work, we pay them simply because they've earned it.
When someone places a bet and wins, they get paid because they took the risk, played by the rules, and won. Again, they deserve the money because they played and won. They deserve the winnings.
So, with these two examples, we can see that being worthy is related to earning and deserving something, not simply the idea of need. If need were the most important criteria, then the poor would earn much more than corporate executives because they have such great need. Likewise, the "rich" who play the lottery and win wouldn't be paid their winnings because they have far less need than those who are poor.
Let's Reward People Wisely
There is a little book that I read a long time ago. It's called The Greatest Management Principle in the World. The whole point of this little, easy to read book is that what gets rewarded gets repeated. If we reward posturing and showing off, then that's what we'll get more of. Essentially, it's what we will have paid for. If we reward quiet effectiveness, then that's what we'll get instead. Which kind of employee do you want working at your office - loud and useless or quiet and effective?
That same principle works outside of the office as well. Don't you think? If we base our monetary support of others simply on need, we'll likely get more:
- Needy people.
- People with a wider range of needs.
- Expressions of extreme need.
- Individuals waiting for others to meet their needs.
- Confusion regarding wants versus need.
So, I'm strongly suggesting that we evaluate worthiness of individuals and not simply need. Let me give you some examples of individuals who might deserve your financial support. Consider individuals who:
- Honestly try to better themselves.
- Work hard to be all that they're reasonably capable of being.
- Understand their unfortunate situation and work to get out.
- Fall on hard times through no fault of their own.
- Have the right attitude and outlook.
Let me also suggest that the following types of individuals are not worthy of your support and never will be. Consider individuals who:
- Don't really try to better themselves.
- Expect your support instead of trying to earn it.
- Regularly seek support and don't take responsibility for their own situation.
- Are naturally self-destructive.
- Have betrayed your trust and support.
- Would just blow through whatever money you give them and come back expecting more.
- Don't demonstrate personal responsibility.
- Consider themselves to be victims of life.
- Are "something for nothing" types.
Okay, go ahead and hate me for being such a hard ass about this, but I'm just tired of seeing so many of us giving away our hard earned money simply because we see someone in need. Seldom do any of us try to determine how these people got into the situation in the first place, and whether their actions and decisions deserve our continued support (and encouragement).
I think if we start demanding that people earn our support, then most of those who have needs will start being worthy of our support. Again, it's that "greatest management principle in the world" at work here - what gets rewarded gets repeated.
Done with Worthiness, take me back to Asking for Your Money