In the usual sense of the word, “tithing” means contributing to the support of a church. But the word also can refer more generally to putting a portion of one’s money, goods, or time toward charitable purposes. Sarah Ban Breathnach gives it the second, broader meaning when discussing the concept in her book Simple Abundance, in which she says that willingness to give is essential to creating an abundant life. Moreover, she observes that we naturally attract the things we choose to give.
“It’s been my discovery that when I tithe time, I receive more time,” she says. “When I tithe goods, I receive gifts. If I want more money in my life, I tithe money… Affirming our abundance now, by becoming generous givers, dramatically demonstrates our prosperity to the doubter within.”
Last week I learned that one of my coworkers had used up this year’s allotment of vacation days while caring for a relative who is dying of cancer. Another employee wrote an email asking people to help by donating part of their vacation time. I contributed two days, which led me to reflect on how we get more time when we’re willing to give it.
Obviously, giving away some of my vacation days won’t magically cause my employer to add more to replace them. So what’s actually going on—in practical, real world terms—when giving attracts abundance? I would describe it as a shift in attitude, which subconsciously prompts positive action. Our perceptions of time and prosperity are mostly based on our subjective experiences, rather than on measurable facts. Often we don’t appreciate—or even notice—when we gain more.
We have more vacation days after working for the company long enough to gain some seniority, but we still feel rushed and harried because our lives have too many distractions. We have more money because of pay raises, but our expenses are higher. We have more stuff, but we’re not enjoying it because the house is full of clutter.
So abundance is mainly about breaking out of those unappreciative thought patterns that leave us feeling deprived—it’s not really about acquiring any particular amount of money, time, or stuff. We’re all familiar with stories about people who won the lottery or got a fabulous job, but ended up being just as unhappy afterward as they’d ever been. To a large extent, prosperity is a mindset rather than a quantity.
Giving—whether we choose to give money, goods, or time—is a powerful statement that we have more than we need. Hoarding, in contrast, reinforces feelings of lack and scarcity. As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words. We can chant happy mantras all we want, but that doesn’t have much effect until we get our behavior in alignment with our affirmations.
When we feel confident that we have more than we need, the subconscious mind’s pattern-matching functions kick in to adjust our interpretations of everyday events accordingly, thus further changing our actions in a self-reinforcing positive cycle. Because giving money causes us to feel more prosperous, we’re more likely to be proactive about spending small amounts that result in larger savings—for example, buying a new setback thermostat that reduces energy costs. Giving away things we don’t need allows us to more comfortably use what we have, as well as enjoying our gifts and purchases much more when there’s no clutter in the way. And giving time leads to feeling that we have enough of it so we shouldn’t be in a rush, which in turn prompts reflection and positive action to better manage our time.
Although I won’t literally get back the two vacation days I gave away, I should certainly be able to find positive ways to avoid more than 16 hours of time-wasting by the end of the year. I’ll consider this a personal challenge!
Click here to read the next post in this series, Attracting Time.