I’ve been thinking a lot about what it means to truly be generous lately and I’ve realized a few things about myself and a lot of other people who think of ourselves as generous.
In a nutshell, we are not truly generous people.
Sure, I am kind and I often do nice things for others and think of myself as a super generous person, but I often feel the opposite of generous feelings about the people I give my time, energy, effort, money, etc. to, especially if they don’t reciprocate. I get annoyed if I give someone a gift and they don’t seem to be particularly grateful for it. I sometimes feel put out if I spend a lot of time referring people to other photographers around town and those photographers don’t do the same for me. I judge people who whine about not being appreciated when they give their time or energy to others and don’t get recognition for it (yet, I often whine about the same thing). If I do something particularly awesome for someone, I usually feel as though I have to tell someone so they will know how nice I am (and I know a ton of other people who are exactly the same) and, if I don’t tell anyone and the person I did something amazing for doesn’t tell anyone or gush about how awesome they feel because of it, I feel annoyed, as though I’ve wasted my time.
Does that sound generous or self-serving? Exactly. Serve me up a dish of my awesomeballs self, please!
Awhile ago a friend of mine was going off about how often she does nice things for people and how they never return the favour. She was angry and said that she was thinking that she should shorten her list of true friends to cut out the self-serving ones. My first thought when I heard this was that I often felt exactly as she does and have often thought about doing the same – weeding out the people who I feel are not generous at all. After a few days, though, I realized that by thinking that way, I was perpetuating exactly what I didn’t like about those people. I did not enjoy that feeling at all.
I asked myself, Why do I feel the need to be recognized for the nice things I do or my kind nature? Why is it so important for me that others think I am kind and generous? Isn’t it enough to know, in my heart, that I am?
Apparently, up to that point, it wasn’t enough, but I don’t think I had ever really examined it before and I didn’t realize how truly “ungenerous” I was. I sat down and wrote a list of all the nice things I have done in the last few months and, beside each good deed, I wrote about the feelings I’d had about those deeds since. HOLY SHITSNACKS PEOPLE! Can you say selfish asshole???
Here are some of my thoughts associated with my acts of kindness:
- Such and such didn’t even acknowledge that I’d done that for them. That hurt.
- I have done SO many nice things for her, without being asked, and she has NEVER done anything back for me out of her own free will. Why do I even bother with people like her?
- Didn’t even get so much as a thank you and I totally went out of my way to do that. That person is really ungrateful.
- I know that photographer picked up that job because I specifically referred them to her and I know they told her it was me. Didn’t even get so much as a “hey, thanks”. I guess I’ll take her off my list of referrals.
- Two people wrote me back after I put in three hours of effort to give feedback. Why do I even bother?
- Two years of my effort, love, dedication and help and I didn’t even get invited to the Christmas party. Wow. Nothing says, “you mean nothing to us” like not being invited. Totally better off without them anyway.
- He didn’t even notice that I did it. That’s awesome. What a jerkwad.
Yes, super negative and not exactly the list of feelings I’d expect from someone who thinks of herself as a generous person. While I don’t always expect something in return for my generosity, I do expect something (or at least wish for something, even karma-wise) quite often and this, my friends, is NOT true generosity.
In a nutshell, continually giving of your love, time and energy freely and never expecting a damn thing in return. Ever.
But, what about those people who take advantage of your kindness and take, take, take, without ever giving back to anyone? Shouldn’t we at least avoid those people and give freely only to those people who deserve it? Uhm…no. If everyone in the world who was truly generous only gave their energy to people who were deserving, they would not be truly generous. We never know when even the smallest act of kindness can cause a huge ripple effect that can change lives. If we refuse to be kind because we believe people aren’t deserving of our kindness, we are actually creating less kindness in the world. See what I’m saying?
I have taken a trip within myself and realized that, up until a few weeks ago, I did not understand the meaning of being truly generous. I want to be truly generous and not just kinda sorta generous. I don’t want to care if other people see my generosity or if they are grateful for what I do. I just want to be kind and generous and feel good about it, in my own heart.
The hardest part is being kind and helpful to people who I used to believe didn’t deserve my time or my energy for all sorts of reasons (mostly because I felt that they were too selfish, ungrateful, entitled, undeserving, etc.). If I can give time and energy to those people and just be happy that I’ve done something nice for them and not expected anything in return or felt the need to be recognized, then I will be a truly generous person and my soul will be growing by leaps and bounds.
I’m always up for a soul challenge, though, so I say GO!
Speaking of souls (and, particularly enlightened ones), here is a pic of my lovely friend, Florriann! We did a fun shoot on Saturday because I needed some girl time with her. We never see each other enough, even though we live only 10 minutes apart. She is one of the kindest, most generous and lovely human beings I know. 🙂
Have a great Monday, my friends. I wish you all enough…