Generosity is a virtue that is largely undervalued by society as a whole. There are spiritual reasons for being generous, of course, which you can discover at your favorite house of worship. Today, however, I’d like to focus on the many practical benefits of being generous.
Being generous will free you a little from the burden of materialism. Have you ever noticed that the more stuff you have, the more it taxes you mentally? When you own more things, you have more things to take care of, more things to clean, more things to fix when they break, and more things to replace when they can’t be fixed. On the other hand, if you had fewer things, you’d have more time for relaxing or productive activities. Materialism will have less of a grip on your life.
At the same time being generous will cause you to feel better about yourself. When you give to another needy individual, you will have relieved them of a little of their worries. Imagine the pride of being someone else’s knight in shining armor! Or, perhaps you give to a volunteer organization that takes care of orphans. Even a meager gift can help out dozens or even hundreds of people who are less fortunate than you.
Another benefit of being generous is that your focus will necessarily shift from yourself to the object of your generosity. You will be less self-centered because you will be interested in the other person or charity. Because you’ve given them money, you’ll want to know how they’re getting along. Maybe your gift was a huge blessing to them, or maybe they could use a little more help. Because you want to know, you’ll spend more time worrying about them and less time worrying about yourself.
And finally, let’s just be honest and admit that being generous will have the rather Machiavellian effect of making people like you. You can consider yourself to be buying future favors. The people who receive your gifts will be forever appreciative, and they will be more likely to respond when you have a need of your own.
So be generous. Be so generous that you aren’t even sure how you’ll get by without all that extra money. It will be a highly profitable exercise.
This post originally appeared in the October 10, 2007 edition of the Greenhorn Valley View.