A 16 Guidelines view on
In some ways generosity seems a crazy, counter-cultural way to behave. Instead of keeping our time, energy or possessions for ourselves, we give them away. There’s something very powerful about choosing to do this. It is a fundamental shift away from the limited world of ‘me’ and ‘mine.’
Generosity is defined by the wish to benefit someone else. It is rarely the size of the gift or the gesture that matters most, but the message that comes with it. The heart knows this, immediately and unmistakably. We taste the uneasiness when a gift has an ulterior motive, and save our real admiration for the person who can give without seeking a return.
To some degree, everyone on the planet is likely to demonstrate generosity in some way, whether to a member of their family, a friend, or a beloved animal. The question is simply whether we choose to go further than that. Whether we want to learn how to open our hearts and hands more widely, and to share more generously whatever time, energy, talents and possessions we have. It’s a critical decision about the direction that we want our lives to take.
To give without seeking anything in return
A reflection on
The benefits of
release us from a limited and compulsive focus on ‘me’ and ‘mine’
promote the pleasures of sharing time, energy, talents and possessions
develop confidence and joy in our capacity to be of benefit to others
Did you know?
Mathematical models predict, and experiments confirm, that generosity is an essential feature of winning strategies in games that explore human interactions. 'Prosocial behavior' has evolved within a framework of direct or indirect reciprocity, and the latter may even have provided the selection pressures for social intelligence and language.
Recent studies suggest that people who provide social support to others have lower blood pressure than participants who don't, suggesting a direct physiological benefit to those who give of themselves.
‘It is in giving that we receive.’
St. Francis of Assisi
‘Too many have dispensed with generosity in order to practice charity.’