How To Be Generous
The Bible tells us to be generous. And, of course, generosity sounds great in the abstract. However, when the time comes to actually BE generous, it’s easy to find reasons to not give. And that’s the trap of generosity.
If you get stuck in trap, it will be hard to be as generous in your life as you’d like to be.
SURPRISE! THINKING MAKES YOU LESS GENEROUS
Researches at Carnegie Mellon University did a study to find out if analytical thinking impeded generosity. They did this by giving people a five-dollar payment for taking part in a different, unrelated study, then asking them to give to a charity after either thinking emotionally, or thinking analytically. And they found that people who thought analytically before giving gave less.
How much less? Well, people who thought about babies before deciding how much to give gave an average of $2.34. However, those who first engaged their analytical brain (by doing calculation problems) gave only $1.26.
(By the way, I read about this study in the excellent book “Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die,” which I recommend to everybody.)
The bottom line is that analytical thinking is important, but at the same time, overthinking your generosity will tend to lead you to be LESS generous, rather than more. Your thinking will tend to tell you NOT to give.
I once heard a wise person say that “stinginess and greed come on the heels of acquisition.” You know this is true if you’ve ever had the experience of PLANNING to be generous once you got some money, but finding reasons NOT to be generous once you got it.
It’s a very human problem: Generosity sounds great in the abstract. The Bible tells us to be generous. When the time comes to actually BE generous, however, it’s easy to find reasons to not give.
SO HOW CAN YOU BE GENEROUS AND STILL BE SMART?
I believe that giving is difficult because it makes you face the question, “Will there really be enough for me if I give this?”
Your analytical mind wants to be SURE that there will be enough for you. And the best way for it to do that is to give you reasons not to give at all.
Once you know that your mind will automatically give you reasons not to give, you can make choices about giving without being controlled by over-cautiousness or regret.
You’ll be able to say, “Oh yeah, my brain is doing that now,” and still give with an open heart.
Here are my suggestions:
1) When you give, think about it the amount you want give. Then decide the amount you are going to give. Then STOP thinking about it. If you are clear about the amount, and that it won’t bankrupt you, STOP THINKING after you’ve decided.
2) Know that your mind will probably give you reasons to not give. Allow yourself to disregard those reasons after you’ve decided what you are going to give. Know that the thoughts of stinginess are normal. But if you’ve done your thinking, you can disregard them.
3) Give as quickly as you can after deciding what to give. Giving quickly gives your mind less time to talk you out of it.
4) Think emotionally about the person or people you are helping, and think about how good it feels to help someone in need. Let yourself picture them, and imagine reaching out to them with your heart.
As Mother Teresa once said, “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.” When you imagine the individuals you are helping, it works AGAINST your mind’s reasons for not giving.
5) And most important of all… Allow yourself to feel God’s support of you, and of your life. Touch the part of you that believes that there can be enough for you in your life, even if you are generous to others.
The more you can feel that sense of there being enough for you, while you are giving, the easier and more satisfying it will be to be generous.
In the play “Cyrano de Bergerac,” Cyrano gives away his entire purse in an act of generosity. An onlooker says, “What a fool.” But Cyrano says, “What a gesture.” He was able to give a few dollars, and turn off his analytical mind long enough to live his life with generosity and heart. While you probably won’t want to give “your entire purse,” these tips might help you be more generous and be more happy about it.
So next time you are contemplating being generous, try out these tips, and let me know how they work for you!
By Dmitri Bilgere
Dmitri is a Crucible Project Leader. He is creator of the program “Leading Your Relationship: How to Create the Relationship of Your Dreams, even if Your Partner Doesn’t Want to Help.”
Get it free at http://dmitrib.com/lead
Photo Credit: ccpix