The Ugly Truth About “Charitable Giving”

There once was an aspiring chef named Richard.

After years of training…

After countless, heartbreaking setbacks…

At last, he clawed his way to the top of the culinary world.

With the success of his restaurants and books and licensing deals came overwhelming income.

As his banks accounts grew larger, a cold ball of guilt grew in his chest.

With each extra zero, the discomfort intensified.

Finally, desperate to find some relief, Richard dropped by a local soup kitchen, driven to “give back.”

As he donned the volunteer apron and ladled the first bowl of soup, a feeling of pure exculpation washed over him.

Richard returned to the soup kitchen the next night. And the next, and the next, and the next after that.

Before long, Richard’s culinary empire began to strain, now rudderless and largely uninhabited by its founder and champion.

One night the director of the soup kitchen, curious to know more about this new volunteer who spent so much time at his kitchen, struck up a conversation.

And so it was that the director came to learn of the fame and fortune of Richard’s other life.

After Richard admitted that his empire was suffering from his recent lack of attention, the director asked him why he spent so much time at the soup kitchen.

Without Richard having to say the words, the director surmised that Richard’s volunteering was less an act of service than a compulsive form of atonement… a type of guilt offering for the wealth and power his success had brought him.

And then the director said something that stopped Richard in his tracks:

“Shame on you for shirking your great gift.

Ladling soup is a valuable contribution, it’s true. But there are thousands, millions who could render that service.

How many can do what YOU do?

How many can lift another person out of the weariness and banality and exhaustion of the everyday, and transport them to another realm, as you are so clearly able to do with your restaurants?

How many can write poetry in the hearts and mouths of another with salt, candlelight, silver, and wine?

Go home, my friend. Go home, rest, and go back to your restaurants. Be grateful, not ashamed, for the wealth your service has brought you. It is your reward, and the resource by which you expand yet further, delving deeper still into your singular craft.

Go. Do what only you can do.

Yes, come back to see us, to ladle soup from time to time if and when you desire. But I would not have my soup kitchen be a misguided escape from your equally worthy adventure in value.”

If you aspire to make millions so you can “give back”…

If you feel your greatest contribution is to donate X percent of company profits to charity…

If you feel an unspoken obligation to “atone” for your current or future wealth through charitable giving…

…Then you, like Richard, have been caught in the false dilemma between wealth and service.

Insofar as your business provides value to others, growing your business is likely the greatest, most focused act of charity you can provide.

So shrug off the narrow definitions of contribution.

Resist the temptation to serve “off gift.”

Create a business, and a life, where your gifts are so rawly and violently employed, that the absolute highest, most beneficent use of your talents is WITHIN and not outside your empire.

Provide such copious value THROUGH YOUR WORK ITSELF that your desire to serve others profoundly is itself served nowhere better than within your everyday life.

Any do-gooder can write a check.

Only YOU can do work you were made to do.

So give, yes:

But in your own wild way.

Bryan Ward is the founder of Third Way Man and author of the LIT Black Paper


  1. Single-handedly revoking the accusation that ‘content marketing is dead.’ Powerful post, brother. Thank you for staying on point and sharing YOUR gift. Changing lives!

  2. Bill Grisham CPA says

    What a Beautiful way to teach the libertarian spirit to outsiders. This needs to catch on in the mind of the general public and our youth in particular. You write in the manner of Leonard E. Read and I believe would make him proud! 🙂

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