Generosity is giving more than you can, and pride is taking less than you need. – Khalil Gibran
Soon after returning from monastic life in Asia, I took a job as the director of a hospice in the mountains of Colorado. A number of truths became quickly apparent when working with the dying, and other insights quietly surfaced:
Your remaining years and death will be graceful, peaceful and filled with hope if you have lived a charitable life; therefore a life of generosity is the greatest investment in your future happiness. For those who have spent their life giving all of themselves there is a grace in dying, an ease and a sublime willingness to let go – to release the grasping for this world and existence.
Conversely and proportionately the more an individual tries to covet and and maintain possessions and control others they grow older and die in painful proportion. The poorest days of my life were when I looked out for myself first. I thought if I could acquire or store enough wealth that I’d be less fearful, less doubtful and feel successful. I would be foolish to not notice that I stopped seeing myself as inadequate when I started living a life devoted to charity and sharing.
When you switch your attention from the subject to the object is when you will become successful in the highest sense. When you start giving to the world all in which you had previously hoped to receive is the day you will feel most whole, most complete.
I had always wished for someone to love me, to listen to me, to be understanding, to give of their time, and if needed – I would like to have known that someone would have been there materially.
The day I started giving everything I ever wanted – was the day I started receiving. Life has informed me that if I’m not expressing my generosity, than I am expressing my greed. Greed incapacitates your good heart and sensibility, generosity frees your smile, love, and wisdom.
Your hands were born open, and so was your heart. Somewhere along the line perhaps, something shifted.
The intention and quality of giving matters. I remember wanting to ask for help when I was younger. I felt humiliated; I was somehow lacking. I would sometimes steal to avoid the humiliation of being discovered that I did not have enough. This is known as poverty mentality. And it truly doesn’t matter how much you have, if you think you don’t have enough, there is no amount of money or possession in the world that will ever satisfy you. I remember this lesson when I offer assistance now, to remember to go out of my way to not have the other person feel humiliated.
Strive to let each person that you assist know that this is a temporary situation; that they’ll be strong enough soon to stand up, give back, and pay the kindness forward. I love to try and foster that sense of confidence in others.
When people give only because they have an excess of funds, that doesn’t make them generous, it just makes their previous miserliness more tolerable. The real value of a gift is not determined by its price, but by the amount of attachment overcome. Be prepared to be overwhelmed with happiness when you start giving from the heart. If you keep it up, you’ll likely discover that you’re happy virtually all of the time.
As long as you give without strings attached or outcome expectation you’ll be fine. That means don’t expect thanks or applause either. If you can give anonymously, that’s the best way. You are your own witness, so even if others think you’re miserly, that’s an even greater opportunity to test your true understanding. You can never be taken advantage of, or disturbed, unless you’re giving with attachment.
Some of the greatest lessons in generosity are also learned when the gift is used differently then directed. When there is pain in generosity it is invariably a sign that we’re still holding onto something – typically a combination of anger and self-importance.
Don’t forget that you’re not superior to the recipient, they are affording you an opportunity to be happy and lighten your load. Be generous and grateful for the chance to be helpful. Looking at the recipient as lower than ourselves even in the midst of apparent generosity, is just another example of class warfare in disguise – a beautiful gift in a poisoned wrapper.
Watch what happens when you give to someone who has nothing – that nothing just become their everything. Watch their face light up and then be happy for their happiness. You can change someone’s life by giving in some small way, as long as you give with all of your heart. In competition, be generous and always offer victory to the other. Let them have what they want, and help them to get it – then both of you will be happy. There are few greater joys then being happy for the happiness of another.
Try not to be capricious with your generosity: give equally regardless of someone’s wealth, privilege or standing. Give of yourself with equanimity: Perhaps the object will change, but give nonetheless. Time, an ear, a hug, advice, love, give as much as possible for the highest happiness. True generosity doesn’t discriminate.
At times perhaps it’s best to be patient instead of giving immediately; There may be a more significant and wiser way to be generous than the one that seems most apparent. It will take a higher level of realization to notice that you’ll enjoy all of your possessions even more when you give them away. To train yourself in generosity give away what you cherish most, item by item and discover the happiness unfolding in your heart. For those on the spiritual path, loving and maintaining material possessions is seen as a weakness in wisdom, a confusion to be overcome. Generosity enriches you, and there is no easier way to be poor, than by being selfish.
Why do some people see reality as dark and bleak while others see the same place as an opportunity for hope and possibility? The world you see is a reflection of your character and values. Your priorities are your character. A world seen as dark and impoverished is created by an attitude of self-cherishing and greed. A world of abundance is created by a heart and mind filled with love and generosity. May you be magnanimous, and may you give freely.
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