Your Faith is a Gift

“When you have faith in others you give them an incredible gift.”

John Maxwell & Jim Dornan

I am not great at buying presents. I have a real challenge every time a birthday, anniversary or other celebratory event comes around. I find it difficult to think about what items or experiences people will enjoy and value, and I do have a fear of failure when it comes to buying a gift for someone. As the Generosity Guy, this is a little embarrassing to admit.

My wife, on the other hand, seems to have a superpower in present buying. I don’t know how she does it, but somehow, she just knows what people are missing in their life and will find the perfect gift for them.

I take solace in the fact that I am not the only person in the world who struggles with this and we all have different strengths when it comes to showing love and affection for each other.

One gift that you can give to anyone, no matter who they are, is your belief. We may think that we live in a world where there is too much positive reinforcement and encouragement, but I don’t think that is even possible. So many ideas are idle, so many plans are stagnant, so many abilities are untapped because the right person hasn’t come alongside and said “I think you should give this a go”. Knowing that another person has faith in you, even if you don’t have faith in yourself is the greatest gift.

Money is spent. Resources get used. Help creates a cycle of dependence. But if you can give someone faith, space for them to grow, develop and realise that they are capable of greater things than they have ever imagined, it puts them on the path to success. That is a gift that continues to have an impact.

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.

No fear in love

There’s an old saying that love ‘keeps no records of wrongdoing’.

I find it comforting to know that mistakes that I have made won’t be used against me in the future. That in a healthy relationship, through a process of owning up, seeking forgiveness, and restoring trust, mistakes and failures can be let go.

Love chooses to forget the times we stuffed up and remember the times we nailed it. It thinks that the times we managed to support, encourage, be present for and take care of others, is more important to focus on that the times when we didn’t do that.

James Clear would put it like this, ‘praise the good, ignore the bad’.

I like that kind of love. It is outrageously generous.

But I don’t always see, experience, or show that kind of love. I can remember times, pretty clearly, when someone didn’t meet my expectations of love, and also many times when I didn’t meet my own expectations of what love looks like to them.

The opposite of love is fear. When I act in a way that directly contradicts what love is, I know that I am no longer acting in love, but in fear.

Fear does keep records of wrongdoing. Fear remembers them, keeps track of them and then drags them up to use as a weapon any time it feels threatened.

Fear destroys relationships. It is outrageously stingy.

To move away from fear and towards love means acknowledging the fear, perhaps even unpacking it, and choosing to put it aside so that you can experience all that love has to offer.

The Generosity of Justice

What do we do with people when they wrong us? How should we treat them? With justice, mercy or grace?

Justice is giving someone what they deserve. An eye for an eye would be considered justice. It’s a just punishment. Now, as a society, we have decided to use isolation in a prison, along with financial fines to be what we consider justice. You do the crime, you do the time…or pay the fine.

Mercy is giving someone what they do not deserve. This is a free pass. Freedom to keep going on their way. All charges have been dropped. Debt completely cleared. We would all be drawn to mercy if we are caught doing something wrong, but it is the most dangerous of the three, if it’s in isolation.

Grace is the hard work of restoration, in partnership with either justice or mercy. It is the intentional act of drawing someone in, acknowledging what they did, that it was wrong, that it caused damage and deserves justice, offering forgiveness and a fresh start. If mercy and grace are offered and not accepted and behaviour is not changed, then the appropriate response is justice and grace– not out of a desire for revenge or retribution, but as an opportunity to grow, develop and change.

All three are an act of generosity. The gifts of justice, mercy and grace. But it is grace that has the greatest power to bring healing and restoration to people and relationships. Grace is also the hardest one to give out.

Don’t Get Stuck

“What causes a problem matters less than what maintains it” – Trevor Kashey

“Who did this?”

The question hung in the silence for what seemed like an eternity as two sets of eyes looked back at me in fear, eagerly waiting to see how they should respond to this emotional time, depending on how upset I was.

Another broken item in the home. Not an uncommon experience although it is one that drives me a little crazy.

My desire to get to the bottom of who, what, why and when of these sorts of situations can be helpful to figure out just what happened, but at the same time it can cause greater stress than the traumatic breaking of the breakfast bowl.

The result can leave kids being so afraid of breaking something that they get anxious about carrying a bowl from the kitchen to the table and in their anxiety, drop said bowl and break it. Creating more anxiety. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This can happen in any area of life. We can get so caught up in avoiding failure that we are afraid to act, and when something does inevitably go wrong, we can expend all this energy figuring out who or what caused it, getting stuck in the process of dealing out blame. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for accountability and being responsible for your actions, but if it’s just about discovering who to get angry at then we have missed the point. Anger doesn’t create solutions. Blame doesn’t create growth.

Instead of asking, “who did this?”, a better question is “what can we learn from this?”, or “how do we grow from this?” or “how can we improve this?”

Who or what causes a problem ‘matters less than what maintains it.’ It’s not about how we got here but it’s about where to from here.

The Web

I enjoy organisational charts.

They help me understand how things are structured strategically. Who reports to who, how people are connected and who is responsible for what is fascinating to me.

Sometimes the chart is made up of job titles. Sometimes the name of the person is next to the job title. Very rarely there will be a few words included to give a brief explanation of what that person does.

What happens when we view organisations like this is that if something is happening with a member of the team, how seriously we take that depends on where they sit in the chart and how many staff they manage.

So, if one staff member is struggling with workload, lockdowns, or any number of things, if they have many people reporting to them then this is a serious issue, but if they are a job title at the bottom of the chart then it’s not as big of a deal.

Here’s the problem…

No organisation functions like this. Well, no healthy organisation.

Employees don’t live and work in a vacuum. They communicate and engage with staff from other departments to do their job well. The standard organisational chart does not help create a full picture of the people and their influence.

An organisation works more like a web. Everything and everyone is connected. If one person is struggling emotionally then it will pull and shift the entire organisation, no matter the size. The opposite is also true, if one person is killing it across all areas of their life then that will pull and shift the entire organisation. But we can’t rely on the ‘rockstars’ to make an organisation great. John Mark Comer would say that “a system is only as healthy as its least emotionally healthy person”.

How we manage and support any staff member influences the entire culture, from CEO to volunteer. Being generous in supporting emotional health and wellbeing for an individual will have a disproportionate positive impact on the whole web.

Predictions

Nostradamus is credited with predicting numerous events, from the French Revolution to the rise of Napoleon and Hitler, plus the assassination of JFK, the attacks on the World Trade Centre in 2001 and now Coronavirus.

Not bad for a guy who lived in the 1500’s.

Although, his writings are frustratingly vague, without dates, written in rhyming verses and in a few different languages.

It is believed he did this to obscure the meaning of the prophecies to escape persecution from the Inquisition. (Which he couldn’t see coming…sorry, a cheap prophecy joke). This only makes it easier to align his words with many world events. He wrote a lot about natural disasters and cities and battles and grief, which there never seems to be a shortage of so at some stage it is likely something he has written will look like it relates to an event.

All that aside, no one has ever been able to connect his predictions with actual events until after they happened. His writings have never stopped anything from happening or changed how people have behaved.

Whether you believe in his predictions or not, we can all agree that the future is mostly unknown. We can hazard a guess at what might take place tomorrow. What’s in my calendar will most likely happen. What I plan to do will most likely come to pass.

Can I guarantee that? Absolutely not, but history has shown that most days roll on without too much disruption.

Until they don’t. Until there is something that upends your life, like a global pandemic, or a family illness or accident, or a job loss, or a bout of depression, or a relationship breakdown.

After experiencing something like this, it is possible to look back and see some warning signs and think that you should have been able to see it coming…maybe…but looking into tomorrow and predicting the outcome, especially when it ends up being a day that upends your world, is, at best, a shot in the dark with four lines that rhyme.

You cannot predict the future. You can only control what you do with this moment in preparation for that future. What you do with that moment will shape how you turn up tomorrow.

Trapped on a Plane

I took a flight from Sydney to Perth and about an hour in, I began to feel a unwell. It was such a strange onset – I was feeling great before I boarded, but things quickly took a turn for the worse. The flight had some turbulence, so I thought maybe that was the reason and things would settle down.

No.

Just over half way through the flight the worst happened. My recently eaten dinner came back to visit. I would love to have told you that it was fine and that I made it to the bathroom in time, but I did not. Someone was in the bathroom and the best I could do a large plastic bag being used as a bin.

I was very apologetic to the crew, but they were so understanding telling me it “happened all the time”, and that I had “done quite well to minimise the collateral damage” (I’m not sure I could do their job – imagine the things they would have seen). They expressed concern for me and how unpleasant an experience it must have been. That was sweet.

The truth is, there is nothing I could have done to change the situation. I was trapped on a plane thousands of feet in the air. I just had to accept it, embrace the public embarrassment, and find a way forward. And it was embarrassing. I was afraid to look stupid in front of other people, but I had no control over that moment. My internal system forced my hand. (Or stomach as the case may be).

There are things we fear that we have absolutely no control over. We get to choose whether the things we don’t control stop us from living our lives, from exploring, trying something new or even stepping outside of our comfort zone.

Fear cripples. Being willing to look stupid in front of others not only lessens the embarrassment after projectile vomiting on a plane but also allows you to walk in the freedom of trying something new and not being good at it yet.

Fade

I am amazed by the sheer amount of people that are alive in this moment. Over 7.5 billion people is impossible to imagine. It is extraordinary, and overwhelming and humbling.

Out of that 7.5 billion, how many people will know me? Dunbar’s number suggests that we don’t really have the capacity to have more than 150 meaningful relationships.

Out of that 150, how many will really do life with me? Jim Rohn said that you are the average of the 5 people that you spend the most time with.

So, not many.

How many will remember me?

Of the people who lived 100 years ago, (less than 2 billion of them), I have heard of, maybe, a handful. A dozen at most, and probably the same names that you may know. The rest of them, well they might have influenced how I live but I don’t know their names or their story.

So, logic would suggest that in 100 years no one will remember me, and no one will remember you. (Sorry).

I will fade.

That’s okay.

However, what I do will have a lasting effect. Every act will create an impact.

Specifically, generous acts multiply. They grow over time as they encourage others to be generous and create ripple effects to people that you will never know in places that you will never travel to. Generosity will not fade. It will last forever.

Leave a legacy. Be generous.

It’s Never Too Late

You may have heard the question, when is the best time to plant a tree?

The answer is ‘20 years ago’.

The second best time to plant a tree? Right now.

There is a cost to spending time doing something.

Time spent at school could have been time spent at work.

Time spent at work could have been time spent with the family.

Time spent playing sport could have been time spent studying.

Time spent learning an instrument could have been time spent playing sport.

Time spent playing a video game could have been time spent doing anything else.

In the moment it doesn’t really matter. But over time these decisions add up, and lost time is gone forever. It’s a tree never planted. You get no shade. You get no air. You get no beauty from a tree that doesn’t exist.

It is never too late, though. You can always start now. You can always do something for the first time today, to become the type of person that you want to become – and little by little, over time, it can build up to be a new skill, a new passion, a new job. A new tree.

Generosity is just like that. I have failed many times to be generous when given the opportunity. I have written people off. Not given when the chance arose and not cared when someone was in need. But that doesn’t mean I have to live like that always. I can begin again today by being generous with my time, my care and my forgiveness.

In 20 years’ time, the small decisions I make today will grow into something that will bring beauty to all who see it.