The Law of Abundance: A Real Path to Successful Living
“No one has ever become poor by giving.” -Anne Frank
Reaping, sowing, giving, receiving, whatever you want to call it, there is a law irrevocably decreed by God, the Universe, Karma, or fate, that the good (and the bad) that you put out into the world will have some kind of impact on you, the people around you, and the people around them, and those around them and those around them. Until that action ripples into eternity. It’s like the game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, but instead of getting to Kevin Bacon we get to a better world. (But it’s always a better world with Kevin Bacon in it, or even bacon for that matter.) Then that action will come back to you to bless your life in some way. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll be blessed with more bacon or Kevin Bacon or both! This act of giving and receiving is simply called the law of abundance.
Of course, when we think of abundance we usually think of money or wealth. But abundance or the law of abundance isn’t just about money. If you “google” the law of abundance you will find a great deal if information on abundance and even some information on how to gain an abundance of wealth. But that’s not what the law is about, or the law isn’t just about money. It’s about abundance in anything–clothes, talents, kindness, food. Chances are if you have donated something to GoodWill or a thrift store, or donated your time to helping someone in need you’ve practiced the law of abundance. If even in a small way. The Law of Abundance is about having a plethora of something and sharing your abundance with your neighbor, your friend, or your loved one and then that good comes back to you.
Giving is an interesting concept because most logically we would think that by giving we would have less because we are giving what we have away. But interestingly, research shows that by giving we actually have more. This is the law of abundance. Any mathematician worth his salt would probably tell you that it doesn’t make sense, the math isn’t there. One minus one is always zero. But for some reason when it comes to the law of abundance and giving, one minus one equals two or three or four. It is actually a proven theory not just a theory.
Arthur C. Brooks is an American musician, social scientist, and columnist for The New York Times. He is also (at the time this article was written) president of the American Enterprise Institute. Mr Brooks gave a speech in February of 2009 at Brigham Young University called “Why Giving Matters” where he discussed the actual science behind giving and the power and gift of giving. He, along with his colleagues at Harvard University collected data from 30,000 American families from all over the nation. What he found was that if you take two families that are similar–same race, same religion, same town, same number of kids, same level of education, everything is the same–except one family gives more to charity than the other family, “the giving family will earn on average $375 more in income than the nongiving family.” Which is statistically attributable to their charitable contribution.
As a social scientist, Mr Brooks didn’t believe the data. How can giving actually make you richer? So he did what we all would probably do, he recalculated and checked the numbers again. “In psychology this is what we call cognitive dissonance–two competing ideas in conflict with each other. On the one hand I had the theory that I’d always worked under. On the other hand I had data that completely contradicted the theory. So I did what college professors always do in this case: I got rid of the data.” Like most logical people, he looked at the data and thought; how is it possible that giving actually makes you richer? Mr Brooks checked the data again, “I got new software. I looked for new data. I re-crunched the numbers. I kept coming up with the same thing.” Even after the numbers kept coming up the same, Brooks didn’t believe it and ran the numbers again. This time using something other than money. “I ran the numbers again, and I looked at volunteering. I found the same thing: People who volunteer do better financially. I ran the numbers on blood contributions and blood donations. Think about that — giving blood. You’re not going to get richer if you give blood, are you? Well, yes, you are.” Whether by blood, donations, or volunteer time, giving makes us richer.
But not only does giving make us richer in our finances it also makes us richer in something other than money. We become rich in a currency that really matters most–happiness. After crunching the numbers over and over again, and going over the data, Brooks still had a hard time believing the connection. So he went to a trusted friend. He told his friend that he kept getting the same “crazy result” and it was almost like “the hand of God or something on the economy, and I can’t believe it’s true.” Although Brooks was a devout Roman Catholic, he still wanted the hard evidence. His friend, who specializes in the psychology of charitable giving, says this; “We haven’t just been talking about money. You economists — you worry about money all the time, and money is boring. We worry about something that people really care about – the currency by which we really spend our days – and that’s happiness. We’ve known for 30 years that people who give get happier as a result.” So this is not just some crackpot theory, there is a science behind it. Giving is important and can have a huge impact on your own happiness and your financial, emotional, and physical success.
Giving is often times referred to as a gift or the gift of giving. We have all heard the old adage that it’s better to give than to receive and I believe that’s the blessing of the law of abundance at work. Giving is a gift and there are many people who are actually born with that gift but it’s also a gift that we can all obtain.
Trisha Leimer, president of Their Story is Our Story: Giving Voice to Refugees; a nonprofit organization devoted to telling the stories of refugees, shares an experience she had while working with the refugees in Germany. She tells the story about a man who is an Iraq citizen who spent time working with the US government in Iraq.
However, when the US Army left Iraq his life was in danger. Therefore, he fled to Germany for refuge and ended up with nothing. Leimer says this about her encounter with the kind Iraq citizen,
“One afternoon at the camp, he sat down to color a mandala. While he colored, a young girl in the camp was stealing my markers and taking them to her tent. I sat across from him and pulled the girl up close. I explained to her that the markers were mine and that I would let her use them if she would just give them back when she was finished. I told her that I didn’t have enough money to keep buying new ones. When he heard that, my Iraqi friend across the table perked up. ‘Do you need money? I can give you money!’ he said sincerely.
I sent the girl off to another table with my markers in her fist, knowing full well they wouldn’t return to me. Then I turned to him and assured him I had plenty of money and that I was just trying to convince her to return the pens. He smiled knowingly and returned to his mandala.
Over the next few hours, he watched me and the other volunteers play with the children and pass out multiple pairs of donated eyeglasses to the adults. When the afternoon was over, my friend quietly helped clean up the mess of papers, markers without lids, spilled water, and stomped on pretzels. After all was in order, he pulled me aside. With a light in his eyes, he pressed two five-euro bills into my hand. ‘I can’t take your money,’ I resisted. He calmly stretched out his hand with the bills and very solemnly, almost pleadingly, uttered these indisputable words: ‘This is my gift to you.’
With tears in my eyes, I accepted the money. ‘I will not use this money for me,’ I said with conviction. ‘This will go toward helping someone else.’
I walked away from that scene feeling like I had been entrusted with much more than this man’s meager wealth. I had been entrusted with the opportunity to allow him to be the giver for the first time in a very long time. When I accepted his money, I allowed him his dignity. Among all the giving done that day in the camp, my friend gave the most by far.”
Even though Leimer’s army friend gave only the small amount that he had, he gave the most that day because he gave all he had. I’m sure he didn’t have a lot to give and maybe sometimes we don’t either. But giving as much as we can, it can help us even more than we know. Sometimes it might be our last dollar, or last minute, or last day. Whatever it is, sometimes giving our all can actually give us all that we need. If only more people gave like Leimer’s friend, if only we gave all that we had for our neighbor, friend or loved one. Imagine the world that we could create!
Imagine many people standing in a circle, then imagine that all those people gave something to the person standing to the left of them. They would all pass something along until everyone in the circle had something. What a blessing that would be. If every person in the world practiced the law of abundance or even if just half of the people in the world practiced the law of abundance, most, if not all of the sorrow and pain and needs of those struggling would be met and exceeded. We would all be taken care of because we all take care and give to those around us.
However, there is one imperative facet of this law of abundance that I don’t think gets mentioned enough. One part that, if forgotten, can break down the whole system of giving. Because, while giving is important, it’s not the value of the gift that’s given. It’s like that old saying, “it’s the thought that counts.”
Well, the true meaning of that saying is sometimes lost on all of us. But it really is the thought that counts. It doesn’t mean that the gift is lame or unwanted and we should just accept it because it was the thought that counted. What I see in that saying is that when we give, we give because we want to give and therein lies the true beauty of giving and the law of abundance.
The whole gift of giving is lost if it’s something we don’t want to do. When we’re forced to do something or give something, we lose all respect for it and thereby the purpose of it is lost. The purpose of giving is, as Mr Brooks’ friend said, happiness. Who would be happy if we were forced to give?
The other important facet of giving, and this one seems a little obvious but I feel the need to share it anyway, we need to be the ones giving and taking care of those in need. It has to be us doing it, it’s a DIY (do it yourself) project for your soul. Mr Brooks in his address covers this very thing, he states, “You will hear in the coming days and weeks and months that if our country were doing what it should be doing for people in need, then we wouldn’t need private giving, that the government would be taking care of people who need it, and that we would not need you to step in to provide needs. Having looked at the data, I am here to tell you today that the day the government takes over for you in your private charity is the day we get poorer, unhappier, and unhealthier. The process starts right now on the day the government crowds us out. We must demand to take our place as givers and to support our communities of need and people who need the services that we can provide.” Giving is not something we can outsource to someone else, it is our responsibility. That’s the only way this works. If giving is so good for you spiritually, physically, and even fiscally, I’m not sure why anyone would want to delegate their responsibility and blessing of giving.
In conclusion, I would like to issue a challenge to you, the reader. To you, dear reader, I say, go and practice the law of abundance. Practice it for as long as you can commit to at first– whether that’s a day, a week, two weeks, a month. However long you need to commit it, commit to it. Then look around your life, find your abundance and share it. Pick a person–your neighbor, your brother, your friend. Whomever you think needs it the most. Find a need and fill it.
Here are five simple things you can start with now to practice the law of abundance:
- Go through your closet and donate unused clothes
- Donate 5% more of your paycheck to your charitable organization
- Give 10 minutes of your listening ear to a friend
- Compliment everyone you meet today
- Write a note, text, email, or call a loved one and tell them how much you care
Start with these small tasks and then challenge yourself again. Try doing something every day, or try doing one thing a week. Whatever you do–challenge yourself. Make it a goal to do at least one of these things this week. Try one of these small tasks or do something even simpler like smile at everyone you pass on your path today. Or do something bigger! Whatever it is, as Nike would say, just do it. I dare you. I promise that before you know it you will begin to see a change in the world around you. But most importantly, you’ll begin to see a change in yourself. For the better. Now, that’s even better than bacon!