Toxic Charity or Teaching a Man To Fish
I watched a video today and it goes along with my Substack here, so you might enjoy it. It’s a discussion on the book, Toxic Charity By Robert Lupton. That’s an affiliate link if you want to buy the book after hearing about it, by clicking the link you would help support the substack at no cost to you. I purchased a copy today. I’m interested in this sort of thing, of course.
So many people want to look like they’re doing a good thing. Many people donate to charities and also volunteer in poorer countries in an attempt to puff themselves up or have something to put on a resume or application of some sort. What good is their time and energy doing?
In the book review video above he talks about this video from Vice, where a woman discusses her trip to build a library. The group knew nothing about how to do construction and there were some local workers with them. She thought the local workers were lazy at first, but when she woke up really early she saw them on the site taking down the shoddy work and then fixing the “work” the volunteers had done the previous day. The local ones were not lazy, they were tired and didn’t want to add to all the work they’d have to re-do the next night.
I’ve said before that whenever you see yourself as “Savior” and others as “victims” who need help, there is an unconscious desire to keep them down. Everything you do to “Save” them backfires. That’s why all of the mass vaccinations and mandates on masks had the unintended results of making people sicker, less intelligent, and/or meaner. There is an unintended consequence that hurts the people those “Saviors” are supposedly trying to save. The subconscious may actually intend that the “victims” stay as “victims” so they can continue to get the benefit from playing savior. But I don’t believe people consciously intend it.
Projecting Your Wants Onto The Poor
In many cases, people project their ideas of what poor people would want and try to give them that, but fall horribly short in actually helping others out in any meaningful way. I remember someone telling me they wanted to give money to someone overseas to give shoes to the barefoot children. She was shocked that he said the money could be better spent elsewhere. The children are used to not wearing shoes. They need other basics. She was projecting her own beliefs onto the children. She wouldn’t want to go barefoot so she thought that was very important for the children.
If you want to help people, you need to know what they actually want and would use. You have to consider their perspective. You can’t just project your thoughts onto them.
I’m reminded of Christmas present shopping since Christmas Eve starts in 5 hours. I am trying to organize and de-clutter, and there is a chance that people give me gifts that may add to that clutter because they don’t know me that well. They don’t know what I like and dislike. I received a bunch of (unedible to me) sweets last year because people never knew I wouldn’t eat stuff with milk or gelatin in it.
And because I’m trying to declutter I’m a bit preoccupied with not giving people things that might add to their own clutter. But maybe they’re looking to add decorations and might enjoy that? It can be difficult to give presents to people who you don’t know very well. (But shoutout to’s article on gift-giving. I did get something from Etsy.)
A Better Way
In the first video reviewing the book, Toxic Charity, Daniel explains that there is a better way to provide charity that actually helps. There are charities set up that give micro-loans to people so that those people can start their own businesses. It’s like allowing a widow to purchase a sewing machine so she can now sew items and make money from the items she sews. A woman who doesn’t have a victim mentality would love to take responsibility to run her own business and help her community. The loans get paid back over time which can help the recipients not feel like they’re a charity case.
Many churches give away money and gifts to people in need, but the people they “help” are often the victim-mentality type. Imagine a world where we focused on giving to the people who were responsible with the money and building them up more.
“If you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch a fish you do him a good turn.” Anne Isabella Thackeray Ritchie's (1837–1919) novel, Mrs. Dymond (1885)
Our society is giving people fish day in and day out rather than teaching them how to fish. You would only give a fish out to someone who you view as incapable of fishing themselves. Giving out fish is what “Saviors” do. Helping to teach people how to fish is what a person outside of the drama triangle does to someone they view as equally capable as themselves.