The Lost Art of Generosity
Humanity is incredibly diverse. Our differences should be recognized and appreciated. In fact, the uniqueness of individuality should be celebrated as it reflects the creativity of the creator. As we gather together in community, a beautiful mosaic is on display.
Individually, we are all wired differently. Some of us are more generous than others by nature. But as a spiritual practice, we all need to give more of ourselves selflessly to others. We each have a role to play. The sharing of resources whether, time, money, or talent makes the world around us a better place. When we actively participate, sharing with others in this drama of life, both the giver and receiver grow in the process.
Our Western Society in large measure has skewed the view of what is possible when generosity is viewed as an art where everyone takes part. Generosity is an art because its definition is tailored to an individual and their choice. The different ways in which people give and receive is reflected in their individuality. But with choice comes responsibility, and with responsibility power. Power allows us to feel control, so we control what we give. We try to control how our gifts are being used. Some of us even have trouble receiving gifts as if it’s somehow an invitation to battle our egos, succumbing to our subsequent insecurities.
Have we lost the art of generosity as a way of living?
Most kids learn an expression in their first years of day-care or school. “Sharing is caring.”
How easily we forget basic, primary, and fundamental principles in life.
Let’s take a moment to re-examine our motives:
Is it possible to give without expectation?
Is it possible to bless without judgement?
Is it possible that lying underneath all this charity is really our desire to control?
The global pandemic of COVID-19 continues to teach many lessons. For one, it has confirmed to us that we aren’t actually in control. The world has changed. It essentially has ground itself to a halt. Many of us have lost our physical jobs, our financial income and our emotional security. Along with these things and others, we have especially lost whatever perception we thought we had of CONTROL.
It’s great to have a plan for the future. There is wisdom in it. But so much of the time, we waste most of our energy on planning ahead, thinking that our confidence can be in that plan.
“If every last detail is managed, then I won’t have to stress about the unknowns, because frankly, there are no longer any unknowns. I’ve got this. I’m in control!”
Here is the reality though. Even if you are detail oriented or the world’s best planner, life never works out the way we plan it. John Lennon once said:
“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Ironically, as soon as one thing changes in our carefully laid out plan (the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry—Robert Burns), we become rattled and stress rears its ugly head again. We are no longer in control. It can become a vicious cycle of fighting for control.
A great proverb reads as follows:
“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” (Proverbs 19:21 NIV)
Maybe it’s within the unexpected deviation of the plan where the intentional learning should begin. Some of us are already on this journey of learning. We recognize that becoming more like Jesus is a process of letting go of that control, choosing to live generously considering the needs of others. But this doesn’t mean that we are free from worry along this path of change.
Jesus addressed this topic of worry, empathetically understanding that it plagues all of humanity.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Take some time and read the full context here: Matthew 6:25-34 NIV)
I have always pictured that Jesus said these words with a wry smile and a dry humorous undertone emphasizing the personification of tomorrow itself. In other words, just as he cares for the flowers of the field and the birds of the air, he will also care for we his children. Focus on the concerns of today and let tomorrow worry about itself.
I’m not saying that we shouldn’t plan for the future. Maybe just hold those plans a little more loosely. Not many of us were actively preparing for a global pandemic. And yet, here we are.
God is not asking you to change the way you are wired.
He’s just asking you to change the amount of time you spend worrying.
Is it also possible that he is asking you to be more generous with your time, your talent, and even your money?
-Observe that it is often easier to share in times of plenty.
-Reflect Upon lessons that can be learned through giving in times of scarcity.
-Ponder if the only thing it’s actually costing you is your need for control.
Consider how you can become a giver of your resources during this difficult time.
Give without expectation.
Contemplate how you can bless others.
Bless without judgment.
Everyone needs compassion; how will you express that today?
Written by JP, friend of Open Table Communities