I have a friend who I will call Jim who loves to open his wallet to the poor. This sounds commendable until you hear the back story. Jim makes a good salary, however he is seriously in debt. Intermittently a family member has to provide an infusion of cash to the tune of thousands of dollars when his creditors start screaming, and his back is up against the wall. He does not take care of himself responsibly, and his life is unmanageable in the financial arena. These symptoms are indicative of addictive behavior, but like all good addicts he is in denial and is feeling no pain.
Although I have close to 30 years of personal recovery and have worked in the field professionally I could not figure out his return on investment, his payoff, which has compulsively kept him doing things that are damaging. This is what I found out after dedicating some time to research. Low self-esteem often drives this train. If I don’t feel good about myself helping someone less fortunate gives me a “hit” of worth. However since the root belief dictates, “I’m not good enough,” every time those feelings return, which is often, I have to get rid of the pain by giving money away. Another part of the scenario has to do with power. Providing for others who can’t make it on their own can make one feel strong and capable as in “See how I was able to rescue this person and alleviate their distress!” It also medicates shame as the giver feels “more than” while the debtor who will never be able to pay him back is “less than”. The disastrous logic becomes, “The more I give away the more powerful I am.” Lack of boundary setting plays a role as well. Because they were not respected as children, often violated and overwhelmed, they don’t know how to say no now. They can be sitting ducks for any manipulative user who comes along with a sob story
It would be very easy for me to worry about Jim. I can look farther down the path and see where his out of control giving can take him. However since he is not interested in implementing recovery tools I have put in place one of my own: detach with love. If you or someone you know does not know how to manage their money with care here is a link to a Debtors Anonymous support group within driving distance of Dayton: http://debtorsanonymous.org/admin/index.php/find/zip?radius=10&zip=45201