Good Deeds Always Count

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It's OK to tell people you help people. :)

A few weeks ago when I launched my Facebook page I asked you to share with me and the world something nice you did for somebody else that week.

A few of the public responses (as well as some private e-mails) were along the lines of “Good deeds don’t count if you tell people.”

That is crazy to me and I don’t know who started that rumor. Whoever it is I’d like to give them a talking to. ;)

I think I understand where it might be coming from. If you tell someone you did something nice for someone else it might come across as bragging. Or maybe it will come across like you only did it to tell people what a great person you are. Like maybe your motivations weren’t genuine.

To which is say: who cares?

Brag.

Tell people what a wonderful person you are.

If they have a problem with that then guess what? It’s their problem.

And as far as being genuine: if more people were nice, even if they didn’t feel genuine about it, we’d live in a much happier place. Although I definitely appreciate honesty, I’d much rather someone be nice to me even if they’d rather not be. What about you?

Maybe you get pissed off at someone who cuts in line at the coffee shop. Instead of getting pissed off, you let it go. It’s on them. Maybe you get cut off by a crazy driver on the road. Instead of getting pissed off, you let it be. Maybe you even let some people in front of you even though you’re angry and running late. Not genuine, but it would be a nice thing to do. Maybe when the person in front of you at the grocery store is struggling to find the change you toss them a dollar. Maybe you’ll feel good about it, maybe you won’t. But being nice shouldn’t be kept quiet.

I guess I could quietly give to third world entrepreneurs through Kiva. But maybe, just maybe, by telling you I made a loan it will inspire you to make a loan as well. Which is the reason I set up the RidiculouslyExtraordinary.com Kiva Lending Team. Sure it’s only 15 members strong as of this writing, but 15 members can do a lot more than I can do on my own. So I tell people about it and I link to it. Maybe some people will think I do it to brag. That’s OK. I am bragging. In sum, we have loaned over $11,000 to Third World entrepreneurs this year! That is phenomenal and it is something to brag about. Thank you for that. :)

Scream Your Good Deeds From The Rooftops

What I’m trying to say is, don’t feel like you can’t share your good deeds. If you helped someone, if you’ve done something nice, you don’t have to keep it quiet. It still counts. Maybe it doesn’t count with everybody. But it counts with me. So you’ve got at least one person on your side. Any maybe, just maybe, out of all the people you might (but probably won’t) annoy, you’ll inspire someone to do an extra good deed.

So who are you going to inspire today?



65 COMMENTS

  1. What a sad world it is if people think they can’t tell someone when they do a good deed!

    If you hadn’t spread the word about Kiva, that $11,000 would not have helped needy people!!!

    We should do good deeds for no other reason than to simply make our little corner of the planet a better place. Then we should SHOUT it to the world….and lead by example.

  2. My fiancĂ©e’s dad went to the airport Starbucks before his 67th Southwest flight this year. He asked a Southwest flight attendant (also in line) if she was ready to make her order. She said “No, you go ahead.” He asked for an iced coffee, and the barista informed him that the were out of iced coffee. He responded, “Well, I’m guessing you’re going to offer me an Americano, and to be quite frank, it’s just not that good.”

    He turned around to the flight attendant and said, “I’m already here, since I’m not getting anything, let me buy yours.” She responded, “Oh no, don’t worry about it.” He handed a ten dollar bill to the barista and said, “Take care of her order and keep the rest for yourself.” He walked away as they both stared at him in shock.

    He TOTALLY motivated me to match or top his RAK, and I hope it inspires someone else too!

  3. Hi Karol,

    It was great to meet you Friday at Chris’s Book Tour in Dallas. First I wanted to thank you for your book “Luxury of Less”, I have already been able to make several positive changes in my life. It was pretty awesome that Chris put on the tour and what was even better than meeting you and Chris was being able to meet a bunch of other awesome people from my Area.

    On Saturday, a group of friends and I woke up at 6:30 am and spent our morning helping out at a group home for the Mentally Challenged. We removed wall paper and painted two rooms as well as made significant improvements to the landscaping, including trimming trees/bushes and weeding. We were able to meet several of the housemates and it was overall an incredible experience. I guess the amazing part is that there was a $15 donation required for each person to volunteer and we still had an amazing turnout.

    Also, Last Year I spent my vacation in Haiti, the most gratifying part was when we were handing food to each of the children. I also enjoyed playing Soccer with the older kids. I wouldn’t trade that experience for a beach/lounging vacation any day.

  4. I am glad you posted about Kiva again. The team concept is awesome and I just went in and joined your (our) and made another small loan. It is so fun to look over those who are asking for lending and pick one!! Makes me feel good and you should too! And, it took about 5 minutes. Awesome. Thanks. Gayle

  5. I hear both ways and both ways should be done.

    There a Talmudic disputes whether or not it is appropriate for people who’ve made donations have their name out there saying they donated this and this. Is it not bragging? And the conclusion (to most anyway), forget the bragging, it is about inspiring others to do the same. To give. To donate. To get involved.

    When I lost 150lbs (to date), I told the world. In this case, yes I am bragging but I am also showing the world it can be done. These stories should not be kept a secret. People want to hear them and get inspired.

    On the other hand, my mother, may she be blessed with many years of happiness and health, (for years) was cooking and donating food to some families in need. And for years we did not know of it. And when we found out, she was upset. She wanted to keep it to herself. Something between her and G-d. Something that she is doing for the sake of kindness. And I get that, I am the same way.

    So I guess we should do both. Telling the world about Kiva is great. I was inspired to take a look at it and thinking of joining. At the same time, pouring a cup of water for someone when they are not looking and not telling them, leave a smile on their face and let them know someone cares.

    Of course the examples are extreme but the point is made.

    • Thanks Roy … good point. It’s a personal choice. Your mother had her own reasons to keep it to herself and that’s cool. My point is that nobody should keep quiet just because they’re “supposed” to. I definitely don’t go around telling people every single nice thing I’ve ever done … but if someone asked me about something nice I did for someone I’d tell them instead of saying “it doesn’t count if I tell you.”

      • 100%.

        I know many families who at the dinner table ask their kids, what kind thing did you do today? I think they are on to something.

        More so, I know many families who do tremendous kindness and their kids grew up and go ahead and do the same. The impact is there.

        End of the day, we are in a place to make an impact on others, so why not go do it in a positive way.

  6. Kinda hard for me to shut up about it, since a lot of my “good deeds” have involved words recently ;)
    Just yesterday, I got inspired to tell the world (er, at least my facebook “world”) that if they consider themselves “boring and dull to be around, therefore I resign myself to be antisocial” (yes, thinking of a few people in my life)… we have the power to change! We can be UN-BORING! Find an activity, big or small, that gives you something to talk about!
    Maybe not on the same level as Kiva. But, say, we all start feeling better about ourselves, and we want to share the wealth with others, eh?

  7. Interesting discussion. I remember a friend telling me she made a donation to our school, in exchange for which she ‘received’ a brick with an inscription to be laid in a patio at the front of the school. Instead of the typical inscription (name, graduation year), she requested the words ‘thanks Mom.’ I liked the fact that she used the opportunity to express thanks to her own mom and I was impressed by her desire to remain anonymous. (it had never occurred to me to remain anonymous!)

    On the other hand I know that when organizing a group effort to raise money, sometimes it really does motivate people to know that friends they respect or leaders of the group are contributing in significant amounts (a little friendly competition can benefit the recipient of aid).

    So I think being anonymous can be good, as can being public. It depends on the situation and the people’s motivation. Is it ok to brag about your generosity if it moves others to imitate yit? Is it ok to keep things quiet if you lose an opportunity to inspire others? I guess each person has to come to their own conclusion.

    • “each person has to come to their own conclusion.” I agree Ami. Similar to what Roy mentioned as well.

      You all are too smart for me. :)

      (Who wants to write the rest of my articles?)

      (just kidding!)

  8. If there is one universal need it’s for positive achievements to be advertised and lauded. Turn on the news for a few minutes and you might start to wonder if anyone anywhere is doing anything positive. Of course the truth is most people do positive things but they don’t become the topics of discussion in our popular culture. So ‘little guys’ like us have to push back against that. We are all uplifted and inspired by positive examples so it’s in our best interests to promote them.

    P.S. I just joined your Kiva group.

    • Thank you Pete, you have been leaving amazing comments lately. I could not have put any of that better myself. We definitely need more positive achievements advertised … and we need less people turning on the news. ;)

  9. Karol,
    I am not quite sure where this comes from for me, but I have felt for a long time that you should not go around telling people the good things that you do, I don’t know maybe religious upbringing ?? but I have to say that you have made me think about it …… and I am going to challenge myself to change it. You are right we should tell people about the good things we do and hopefully inspire others to do more :)

    • Looking more into and thinking more about this, it is definitely religion that tells people not to talk about good deeds. Maybe I’ll delve into that in a future article. Thanks Rosa! :)

  10. Hmm…having grown up with the teachings mentioned above, I’d say the point is not whether you share your good deeds or not, but whether you need to share them. Like, if they come up, they come up. But if you’re only doing stuff to get people to think you’re awesome, it’s hypocritical. You’re taking something that’s about caring for others and turning it into “care about me”.

    That text also says that we should be known by our good deeds. In other words, do so much awesome stuff that people find out whether you tell them or not. :)

    Like I said before, anyone who trumpets Kiva gets my vote. :)

    • Elizabeth’s post is in line with my own views on the subject. Is the motivation of the deed to truly help someone else or to gain favor for yourself?

      I’m going to have to struggle with the point that Karol makes which feels like whether you help someone out of love or self-interest, you are still helping.

      There are many people who make money from the suffering of others in private and look like saints in the eyes of the public with their great deeds.

      This is way more philosophical than I wanted to get this early in the morning…

      • Even if the motivation is to gain favor for yourself, if you’re doing something good, it’s still positive. *Nobody* is completely self-less. Anybody who thinks they are is lying to themselves.

        • I think this is the crux of it. No one does good things for others; we just do them to make ourselves feel better. Like it or not, we are all out for #1; it is just human nature.

          So if we’re going to do stuff that makes us feel good, anyway, why not help someone else in the process? And if it makes you feel even BETTER to tell the world, “Hey, I did something nice today and I feel great,” well, then, more power to you.

          And the more we talk about what we’re doing that’s “good”, the trendier, hipper, “cooler” it gets. Being a good person is so in right now! Let’s keep that up – it’s posts like these that help.

        • Exactly!
          I came to the realization a long time ago that the reason I do good deeds is completely out of selfishnes. I do it because I know it will make me feel good! it was kind of unconfortable to realize that, because I wanted to believe that I was selfless, but each time I though about it, it came down to the feeling I got from it.

          • Great discussion here.

            This is something I have thought about as well. I agree that if people are benefiting then the motivation behind the generosity doesn’t really matter. However, I do admire real selfless generosity. Giving anonymously is completely about the gift. That is a very powerful feeling. Generosity for some other personal gain is still good but it is not as pure in my mind.

            One example is that some of the big oil companies spend more money advertising their environmental efforts then they actually spend on the environmental efforts themselves. (In the past anyway, I don’t know about now.) It is too expensive to actually be environmentally friendly so they just try to fake the perception. Wouldn’t it be better if their marketing budgets also went to making the world a little greener?

            Being generous out of selfishness seems a little less than generous to me. But, as I said, a good deed is still a good deed regardless of the motivation behind it.

            • The funny thing about admiring real selfless generosity is that you can’t really admire it because you never know about it. It doesn’t inspire you because it doesn’t happen. :) But as I’ve mentioned, I’m not saying we need to talk about every single thing we do, or every single time we give … we just shouldn’t feel bad if we feel the need to share good deeds.

    • Yes, I know what you mean.

      But maybe even if they don’t come up and you just share them outright, is that such a bad thing? Is it really so bad to talk about good, positive things?

      • Of course not. :) I think people are talking about 2 things here – the good deed itself, and the motive. Your point that no matter what the motive, people are helped, is totally true. People who say “telling makes it not count” are confusing action and motive.

        This is why I read awesome blogs online and why I don’t watch cable news. One tells me people are working hard to make the world a better place and the other daily tells people that we’re on the precipice of doom and to live in fear.

  11. Hey, Karol! Right on- why shouldn’t people let others know how they’re giving back & contributing to the world? With that in mind . . .

    Can I brag that my Kiva team is only 4 members strong?

    Oh . . . and that, starting in December, I’m giving away money every month at TheDonatingDrummer.com?

    (thanks!) Love you, man- keep up the killer work!

  12. Thanks Karol for exposing the myth that we shouldn’t share our good deeds.

    Its only by inspiring and showing others how they can also do some good can there be more acts of kindness in the world:-)

  13. well – here’s an idea for the pathologically modest: brag about other people’s good deeds. Make a fierce noise, create a hullabaloo, celebrate and recognize those RAKs, so long as they’re not your own, you’re morally clear.

  14. Bragging about others’ good deeds–Ami, that’s a great point to cut through the concerns on both sides.

    The ego is very subtle and effective at reinforcing itself, puffing itself up to “look good.”

    Certainly we need more open talk about good deeds, both ours and others. But it’s also interesting to notice how our egos respond when we don’t get credit for the good we do.

    I volunteered playing music for hospice patients for two years, and I completely kept it to myself for about the first year, then started sharing about it, then found myself wondering how pure my motives were in the sharing…not that it’s bad to share, but just that there is something powerful about doing something and receiving nothing, not even recognition, in return.

    But that kernel of goodness gets corrupted into a pathology where we aren’t “supposed” to share our good deeds…

    Thanks for kicking off this fascinating conversation, Karol!

  15. looking deeper into Anthony’s comment about Jesus. Just before the above reference in Matthew 6, Jesus says

    “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see
    see your good works, and glorify your Father which is
    in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)

    I interpret it to mean (for christians) that the point is to glorify God, not themselves (as reiterated in the later chapter).

    As Karol is saying, perhaps for us we can think of it that we should tell others what we have done to encourage them to do it as well, and again not to bring praise upon ourselves…just a thought.

    p.s. Karol, I met Chris G. in Little Rock on Sunday and when he asked how I knew him I said through your site. (haha, this is probably an example of pridefully displaying a “good deed”, oh well, I won’t use my real name.)

    JW

    • hehe … thanks for the good deed JW. :)

      “As Karol is saying, perhaps for us we can think of it that we should tell others what we have done to encourage them to do it as well, and again not to bring praise upon ourselves…just a thought.”

      Yes, but what I’m also saying is I don’t care if somebody wants to praise themselves. I don’t care if their motivations for doing good things are “impure.” I want more people to do more good things and to talk about all the good things everybody does. :)

      • so if you want to be “extraordinary” you can do good things and boast about them, but to be “ridiculously extraordinary” then you do them, encourage others to join you, AND do it with a humble heart :)

  16. Karol, You have given me a lot to think about! For years I did my good deeds in secret, thinking that was the “right” way. I finally realized that my children did not know that I did these good things, whether it was donating money, volunteering time, or helping out someone. I wasn’t raising generous children by example because they didn’t see my example.

    I started telling them about the ways I share all the blessings I have received. I gave them each a certain amount of money to give away to the charity of their choice. It took awhile, but I am proud to see that they are becoming more aware of the power they have to make their little corner of the world a better place.

    Thanks for bringing this up. And most of all, thanks for the title of your blog. It is my new favorite expression!

  17. I love this post…I was just cornered with this the other day. I was at the zoo returning some tickets from an event we held there and a grandma came in and was a bit upset that they were charging to enter the dinosaur area. In their marketing they don’t mention that there is a seperate entrance fee. They of course were busy and not really paying much attention. I pulled out some money and gave it to her. It was only 5 dollars and she was so taken back that I would give a perfect stranger money. She wanted to send me money in the mail. I told her not to worry about it. If she saw someone in need later in life to just pass it on. The way giving makes you feel is amazing. That I was able to help this woman get into the dinosaur exibit. It was a good feeling. I wanted to tell people because I felt so good! Just jazzed up with love and good humane interaction. But i only told my husband because then I felt like i was bragging. Like oh look what I did today. when really it was like i felt so good that I could help. btw i never have cash either, it was meant to be. Giving is often more rewarding for the giver than the recipient.
    Paz

  18. You have become one of my favorite readings, so “Thank You.”

    It seems that we shouldn’t have to make note of the kindnesses that we do, but sometimes by mentioning the good things that we do or extend to other people, it’s not about wanting to draw attention to ourselves, but it is way of reminding people that the little things we do have the capacity to enrich, lighten, encourage, and show compassion to someone else, who in that moment, could use that bit of kindness.

    In general, when we choose to do a good deed, it comes from a very unselfish place, when we make a point to mention it, it is for an opportunity to inspire the person we mention it to or remind them to be gracious for the blessings they may have in their life, or that their crazy is manageable.

    So to your question, “Who am I going to inspire today?” I would like to inspire my children. They are grown now and I hope that I inspire them to be their unique greatness.
    -Layne

  19. When I read the comment about the zoo, I thought of something that happened a few weeks ago when I was visiting my daughter at college. She loves Jack In the Box jalepeno (sp) poppers so we went to the one near campus about 5pm one evening and decided to just sit for a few minutes. I noticed a very tall, slender man – probably in his late 30s or early 40s go up to the counter, order an item and count out some change. I noticed he was wearing flip flops on his feet although it was quite cold in Flagstaff, AZ in October. Then he sat down and ate what he had purchased. A few minutes later he came into the booth behind my daughter and very humbly asked if we happened to have an extra dollar. This was a situation where I knew he was just hungry ….. so I reached into my wallet and gave him a $10 bill. He was so grateful and then he went back up to the counter and ordered some more food. I could tell he was a regular which, in itself, is sad. My daughter looked at me and said, “Oh, Mom, when you gave him that 10 he just said “Wow”. The experience warmed my heart and I am glad I could share that moment with my girl and she could be a part of it AND I am grateful to the hungry man who asked. The gift came back to me more than double.

  20. I picked up a piece of trash as I was walking through a parking lot today and threw it away.

    I didn’t have much thought about it, but my wife said “Thank-you for being a good person.”

    That’s worth picking up another piece of trash tomorrow… and every day.

    I didn’t do it for the compliment… I did it to do it.

    Good deeds do count … regardless of why you’re doing them. What seems to happen though when you do good deeds so that other people will notice, is that the compliment for the good deed carries less weight when you get the compliment.

    Maybe that’s why people think good deeds don’t count if you tell people… the compliments feel less complimentary if you tell someone else you did a good deed.

    • Interesting take. Maybe the compliments do, indeed, feel less complimentary if you tell someone you did a good deed. The solution to that is simple: don’t expect compliments, just share the love. :)

  21. Thanks for the article. There’s actually scientific evidence to demonstrate that people are more likely to do good deeds if they count up the good deeds they’ve already done. People are also more like to practise acts of kindness if they see someone else doing an act of kindness. Both good reasons to brag!

  22. I would, Karol. They are two separate studies: one is here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1820947 and the other is here: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/pay-it-forward-elevation-leads-to-altruistic-behavior. (If you’re interested, you can read my chatter about these studies here: http://50gooddeeds.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/count-your-kindnesses-live-longer and here: http://50gooddeeds.wordpress.com/2010/08/05/elevation-not-just-for-mountaintops). I love sharing this kind of info – why should we feel guilty about dwelling on our good deeds?

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