Why I'm Not a Terrible Person for Not Supporting Your Worthy Cause

Published on June 9th, 2019

1.5 million. This is the number of dogs and cats that are euthanized every year in the US alone. 10 years ago, my wife and I rescued a sweet, gentle pit bull/bulldog mix from the local humane society. It breaks my heart to think how close he was another rounding error on this statistic. It’s also hard to consider the fact that he was an anomaly, and that most of the others like him won’t get a chance to find a loving home.

One could spend their entire life doing nothing but trying to rescue as many dogs and cats as possible and come nowhere close to saving a million a year. At best we can make a difference in the lives of one or two that we can afford.

Moreover, this is just one cause. Many, many others are equally worthy in trying to help save the world from pain and anguish. Here are a few:

  • Abortion / Pro-Choice
  • Alumni endowments
  • Big Brothers, Big Sisters
  • Boy Scouts
  • Cancer
  • Child abuse
  • Climate change
  • Cyberbullying
  • Diabetes
  • Eating disorders
  • Elder rights
  • Environment
  • Feminism
  • Girl Scouts
  • Heart disease
  • Homelessness
  • Leukemia
  • Mental Illness
  • Minority rights
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Politics
  • Poverty
  • Racism
  • Red Cross
  • Sex Trafficking
  • Women’s rights

If pushed came to shove, I could put 100 more. Here’s one list of 100 charities. According to this link, there are 1.5 million registered 501c3’s in the US. Now consider international relief funds and causes. There is an endless number of needs in this world, and I hope each one of them is successful in making a positive impact.

However, there are too many causes and needs for a single person to contribute to them all. It’s not a matter of desire, will, or means. It’s just a mathematical impossibility.

This is why I get upset when a well-meaning volunteer tries to guilt and shame people on a street corner when soliciting donations. “Oh, you don’t have time for the environment? Oh, you can’t help a child with cancer? Oh, you don’t have time to save the children?” It’s hard to hear these words and not feel the intended sting.

The trouble is that they are probably all worthy causes, and they could all use support. However, we all have finite time and resources. We could give every minute or our day and every dollar from our bank account and still be 99,999999% away from solving all of the world’s problems. This is not to say we shouldn’t try and we shouldn’t give. Like my dog, it was our way of making a massive difference in the life of a loving, living creature. We’ve given so much to him, and we have received so much love and fulfillment in return.

However, we all need to shake off the guilt and shame heaped upon us by well-meaning individuals using negative tactics to try and get us to give a shit about their specific causes. We likely give a shit about many things. However, we have to be careful where we pick and choose to spend our finite resources to make the most significant impact.

In short, we’re not terrible people for not support every possible worthy cause.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.