What Is This “Generosity”?

Being ‘generous’ used to mean that you were from noble birth. The term was reserved only for those families (which was essentially those that had generational wealth – some would give some of that wealth away).

Over time it changed from ‘being of noble birth’ to ‘being of noble spirit’. Moving from something you were born into and becoming more about the good and moral individual qualities that someone had. It didn’t change who was considered generous because many thought that people of noble birth had those qualities.

It didn’t take too long though, for people to realise that just because you were born into nobility, it doesn’t mean that you were of ‘noble spirit’. So, generosity was no longer measured by your family tree, and became all about actions. Anyone could be generous, no matter who they belonged to or how much money they had.

Fast forward to today, generosity has the following attributes:

It is Giving – A gift that shifts from one person to another. Be it time, money, presence, gifts, mental space, ideas, energy or encouragement.

It is Thoughtful – An act or gesture that an individual has put great thought into what would benefit the receiver. Be it something they enjoy or something that will help them.

It is Considerate – An act or gesture that takes into account the feelings of someone else, whether or not it is appropriate for them even if it would help, or if it may cause embarrassment.

It is Caring – An act designed to bring out the best possible outcome for the recipient.

It is Slow and Fast – Usually as a gift of time or presence with someone, that allows space to sit with them in their journey but also responds quickly.

It is Sacrificial – it costs something to be generous. A gift without cost is platitude.

It is Intentional – Something done on purpose.

Here’s what it isn’t…

Self centred –  For the sole purpose of making the one giving the gift feel better.

Accidental – Without generous intent. (A generous person may be accidentally generous to someone once, maybe twice, but if the only time someone is generous to others is by accident, that is not generosity).

Thoughtless – with no thought about the long-term impact that the ‘generous’ act could create.

Cunning – actions which are political in nature, which are premeditated to bring power to the giver.

Manipulative – used to force someone to do something for you.

Restrictive – actions that are designed to hold someone back and keep them in their current situation. A gift that disempowers.

A limited time only – running out after a certain period of time.

It may be that generosity is a little more complicated than we originally thought, and it takes a bit more effort to do a good job of. But, it has the potential to create significant positive outcomes for everyone involved if we can do it well.

Duel

Is it possible that you don’t have to pick sides? I hope so.

Can I care about people living in poverty in other countries and also those living in poverty in Australia? Are they really mutually exclusive?

I know of a wealthy businessman and philanthropist who gives money to support single mothers with children suffering from a disability…and that’s it. That is his focus. People will talk to him about cancer and other health charities, kids charities and even couples with children suffering from a disability, but he wont give to them because it doesn’t fall in line with his generosity focus. It doesn’t mean he has no heart. In fact he cares very deeply for all these issues but his choice is made.

I have discovered that there is a difference between being selective with the organisations that I support and not caring. My absolute desire is to end poverty, with a specific focus on developing countries and that is what I put all my energy towards. That doesn’t mean that I don’t care about finding a cure for cancer…and research suggests that you have more of an impact by giving greater amounts to a few charities rather than small amounts to many charities.

The true call of generosity is to open your heart to those that are hurting, suffering injustice, or are battling in the face of severe obstacles. To be able to sit in that space and connect with what their experience would be like. You don’t have to fix the situation, but just be willing to encounter it. Out of that experience, you may want to do something to help, or not, that’s okay, just ensure that you are giving back to something.

It is a risk to open yourself up to those who are in need, it can be painful, but if we can live our lives with that as a focus then generosity will be the outcome.