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Generous Connections guest blog - Fred Smith: Keeping a soft heart in hard times

Dec 1, 2016 at 3:29 PM

mitten hands holding heartMy friend Fred Smith, from Tyler Texas, has insights into navigating life that I appreciate very much. Once, in 1998, after casting a vision for my company, The Legacy Group, he asked me, “John, how do you see yourself helping generous people?” I answered, “I want to help them be effective.” He responded, “ Donors don’t need help in being effective they need your help in finding clarity about what God has called them to do.” This advice fundamentally changed my course.

In his latest blog Fred gives a voice to what many of us are feeling this time of year as we respond to the needs facing our world, nation and neighborhoods. I hope you enjoy his thoughts. You can find more from Fred at The Gathering, a multigenerational community of Christian donors who learn together how to act on their hearts desire for generosity. -John

Keeping a soft heart in hard times
I love the martial arts choreography in movies like Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. I asked a black belt friend how he hardened his hands for real (not staged) competition. It seemed easy enough. Set up a five-gallon bucket of white rice and punch your hands in it 10-12 times in a row five times a day. When that no longer hurts use a five-gallon bucket of dry beans for several weeks and then graduate to five gallons of sand.

While it takes time to become hardened it is a simple process. My martial arts friend cautioned me, “Be careful. The process is irreversible once the calluses are there…and you could really hurt someone with them.”

Likewise, I’ve discovered a way to build calluses on the heart – especially this time of year. Plunge your heart five times a day into websites, television and email coming from nonprofits and ministries. (While “Giving Tuesday” may be an extraordinary example of the power of social media with more than 114 billion Twitter impressions and almost one million Facebook mentions on a single day, it still has the effect of a sudden swarm of gnats.) When the numbing is sufficient start on your direct mail stack, cards and personal letters. When most of the feeling is gone, move up to repeated punching into personal visits, phone calls and notes from friends. For the final hardening, dwell on all the disappointments, misused gifts, unrealistic expectations and relentless pictures of children and women. Read articles on charity fraud, waste and corruption. By then you should have to register your heart as a lethal weapon and warn people before meeting them.

Is that really what God wants? I believe what He desires instead is for us to resist becoming hardhearted. What I have discovered and heard from others is this: resistance training builds heart muscle not calluses. Constant outside pressure builds calluses. Constant exposure to irritation builds calluses while patient practice of giving skills builds strength. Muscles are alive and growing. Calluses are dead and hard. There is no way to avoid the predictable barrage of incoming requests for help – especially in this economy and season. Focus on the few things that matter most to you and refuse to let your heart mind and soul become hardened. The process is irreversible for hands…but not for hearts.


Read my book, Connected for Good: A Gameplan for a Generous Life, to discover stories of fellow generosity champions.

3 responses to “Generous Connections guest blog – Fred Smith: Keeping a soft heart in hard times”

  1. Gary Hoag says:

    That’s a good word. God cares deeply about the condition of our hearts.

  2. Bob Cocroft says:

    Excellent analogy with the hands. I’ve found myself deluged with asks, especially this time of year. However, since I have limited means, regardless of the empathy I may have for a requestor or the cause, focus on issues that I truly want to support eases the quilt I may have for not being able to do more.

  3. Johnne Syverson says:

    I’ll take muscles versus calluses any day. Lord, help me to recognize the difference.

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