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.