Idiot Generosity

There’s the story of a guy who starting giving money to a religious organisation that promised him his life would be ‘blessed with wealth and riches’ if he just kept giving. So he did. Until he ran out of money. No wealth and riches came his way. Just hunger and poverty.

What do we do when our desire to help puts us in harms way?

What happens if acting generously is causing others harm?

How do we live a generous life without slipping into unhealthy generous acts, saying yes to everything and damaging our lives in the process. Simply put, when is it okay to not be generous?

In the Buddhist practice, there is the concept of Idiot Generosity. Here some examples of Idiot Generosity

  • When people do things with the sole purpose of creating pleasure for themselves by helping others
  • Giving someone something they want because you can’t bear to see them suffer (another name for this is enabling)
  • Showing compassion to someone whilst they are causing significant hurt to others (think perpetrators of sexual abuse being overlooked)
  • Giving of items or services which create more heartache (think donated clothes for developing countries that are not suitable, ruin the local market economy and become landfill)
  • An inability to say no (saying yes to everything removing your ability to live up to the commitments you have already made)

The opposite of this is Wise Generosity which takes into account the context of the situation, other people and long term effects, in order to give wisely. It puts up generous boundaries which helps keep you safe but also empowers others, providing a platform for them to help themselves. This takes longer to figure out and is innately more thoughtful, but worth the extra effort.

Don’t practice Idiot Generosity. Don’t be generous in a way which causes damage to you and those around you.

Practice Wise Generosity. Be generous on purpose. It will be harder to do but it will cause less damage.

Don’t Read This.

Don’t Read this. My Journey is not the same as yours.

I’ve seen quite a pattern emerging, and to be honest, I’m not sure what to make of it.

Everyone has 5 tips for this, the best 10 ways to create that, my two biggest takeaways from this. Heck, some of those I have created.

Whilst I love all of that content, and I think we can learn so much from each other, at some point what has worked for you will not work for me. If I just keep pushing through the tough times with an idea, or a business, or a strategy, will I actually come out the other side as successful as you? As wealthy as you? As well known as you? What if my idea, or business or strategy is awful? Will your simple strategy for super-fast business growth make me millions then?

Not everyone wins the gold medal. Not everyone tops the list, someone has to come second, or third or fourth. Is that still successful?

I don’t mean to sound cynical, but I genuinely want to ask the question about suitability and blanket promises of success.

At some point wisdom will be required, right?

And what can wisdom teach us? We cannot escape suffering in life, that is guaranteed, but wisdom is choosing what is worth suffering for. It says ‘even if I spend all of my energy on my idea/business/strategy and it doesn’t work out and blows up in my face, it was worth it’.

Wisdom is harsh.

I am Selfish

People will generally talk about and teach on the topic they struggle with the most. Because in that struggle comes the wisdom and learning, it doesn’t mean that the person has overcome the struggle completely, it just means they are wrestling with it.

It’s interesting to note that I talk most about being generous and how that is good for you. What that really means that I am naturally a selfish person. In just about all areas of my life I am a person who is wrestling with self-centeredness but striving for generosity.

It is tough and has been ongoing for as long as I can remember.

The reason I find it a struggle is that generosity is difficult, costly, time consuming and is about other people. I find it hard to think of others when I am so conscious of my own needs and wants, but not theirs. It is natural for me to only see the world through my own eyes, because they are the only eyes I have.

So, I immerse myself in the idea of giving because I know that giving is better than receiving, those who are generous will be blessed and will be a blessing – basically giving is good for you and the world.

Jesus lived a most generous life. He saw the hearts and the hurts of those around Him. He walked with them, laughed with them, cried with them, healed them, prayed for them and then died for them. His compassion for people is something I want to emulate.

So I talk about generosity a lot – not because I have mastered it but because I am still wrestling.

Why Do You Keep Asking?

If you have ever given to a charity before, you will know that once you give they will ask you to give again. Sometimes it can become overwhelming as they seem to be like a dog with a bone, asking and asking and asking. Add to that, if you give to more than one charity then it gets multiplied to numerous asks. You can feel as if you are at the mercy of interrupting phone calls, excessive emails and piles of mail at your door step.

Everyone wants charities to spend their money wisely so that as much money as possible can go to the projects they run, and believe it or not, when they are asking you for money again, that is the wisest use of their finances.

It comes down to basic marketing. It is commonly known that if you ask someone who has never been a customer of a particular business before, to become a customer there is a 5-20% chance that they will. If you ask someone who is already a customer to become a repeat customer, there is a 60-70% chance that they will.

It’s the same with Charities. It is much more likely for someone to give to a charity if they have supported them before and much less likely for someone to give to a charity if they have never supported them before. Essentially, it is smarter and financially wise for charities to spend time and money engaging with existing supporters.

In saying that, you are in control of what you receive from them – if you don’t want them to send you mail, emails, or to phone, tell them that. It saves you and the charity time and money, which is an extra donation to them.