Tithing: How Will Giving away Money Help my Writing Career?

Many religious traditions espouse the concept of tithing, giving away a percentage of all your income to charity. In the Judeo-Christian tradition, this gift of 10% is believed to bring compounded blessings on the giver.

But it isn’t only sacred traditions that teach this. Many financial advisers and prominent self-help authors support the idea as well.

So how can giving away money possibly help to advance your career?

Have you ever known a person who was such an optimist that the possibility of failure just didn’t occur to them? Whatever they set their mind to do, they did it, no matter the difficulty or the odds against them. Most of us don’t have that kind of innate confidence. Much of the time, we feel small and weak in the face of our dreams and goals.

If we think of ourselves as small, we tend to act in small ways and get small results.

What we need is a way to make ourselves feel big and powerful, so we’ll be emboldened to take big actions and achieve our big dreams. That’s what tithing does.

Remember a time when someone needed help and you were able to offer it—not just financial help, but any kind. Maybe someone was moving and you helped them pack. Or they were stuck without a babysitter and you stepped in. You had power in those situations. You were able to make a difference for those people by giving of yourself.

The fact is, it’s very hard to feel helpless when you’re helping someone. Tithing works the same way. It makes us feel bigger and more powerful because it forces us to realize the power we do have.

One day my phone rang as I was cooking dinner. My local public television station, which I had recently begun supporting, was about to experience a funding cut and was calling to ask for an additional gift. The caller was ready to launch into his scripted explanation of why the money was needed when I interrupted him. “Yes,” I said, “I can make a donation.” There was silence for a second.

“Oh,” he said. “Great. We’re asking for a pledge of $50, but if that isn’t good…”

“No, that’s fine.” And I started giving him my credit card number before he was even ready to take it. When I hung up the phone, I can’t tell you how pleased I felt.

We all have the power to give, no matter what our income or bank balance. And as Saint Francis wrote, “It is in giving that we receive.” When you tithe, although the gift you make is financial, the rewards you reap come in many forms, not the least of which is confidence. In order to behave powerfully, you have to feel powerful, and nothing does that for you like giving away money.

You might think that the opposite would happen. If giving away money means you have less for yourself, then wouldn’t you feel less powerful? If you have this idea, it’s probably based on your experience with spending money, and spending is not the same as giving money away.

Sometimes, in an effort to make ourselves feel bigger, we try spending a bunch of money. In the U.S., many people do this at Christmas. We buy expensive gifts for our friends and family as a token of our love for them. We want to feel like we have the power to give them what they really want and make them happy. But when the credit card bills arrive, we don’t feel so big. In fact, we feel crushed. Big debt does not make you feel powerful.

Tithing, though, isn’t like that at all. Because your tithe comes out of your income, not your credit card, you never get that helpless feeling of seeing your debt increase. Instead of bills, you accumulate thank-you letters.

Because your gifts are tax-deductible, most charities will send you a receipt showing the amount of your gift and thanking you for it. They may even send a card, a hand-written note, or a free newsletter or magazine subscription.

Every time you get your mail, there be will some new reminder of your generosity and with it, a boost to your confidence and self-esteem.

Another thing that will make you feel powerful is a big savings account, and believe it or not, tithing helps there too. Once you get in the habit of giving 10% of your income to charity, you’ll discover that you do in fact have enough left over to pay your bills.

This will get you thinking: if I can give all this money to charity, can’t I give some to myself as well?

When I started tithing, I barely had any money for myself. I had a couple of part-time teaching jobs and a tiny bit of freelance income. Overdrawing my checking account became such a regular occurrence that I stopped opening the notices from the bank. I’d always dreamed of starting my own charity, so when I got a big income tax refund, I opened a special bank account and starting putting aside money. I didn’t start with 10%; I probably started around 2%, but in addition to a savings account, I invested the money in certificates of deposit. Within only four years, the $1,800 I started with became $8,000.

My success at growing that money was a major confidence boost at a time in my life when I needed it. And it got me to thinking that, if I could quadruple my charity money, why not my money too? So I started saving and investing my own money in CD’s and growing it in the same way.

The lesson that tithing teaches is that we are able to give, and to save for ourselves. Some of the richest people in the world practice tithing, and it’s no coincidence. People who make a consistent practice of giving to others become very good managers of their money. Giving is one of the things that makes them into the powerful people we know them as.

It will make you powerful too. The confidence boost you get from giving will enlarge your idea of who you are and what you’re capable of. Practiced over time, tithing will help you feel that no project is too difficult. No rejection will stop you. No disappointment will slow you down.

You’ll feel big enough to pursue your biggest goals. If you aren’t yet convinced to start tithing, or you’d like to start but aren’t sure how, read Painless Ways to Start Giving for more help.