That’s what I consider true generosity: You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.
~Simone de Beauvoir
For many of us, life is busy enough that a healthy perspective about the balance between what we get out of life and what we contribute to the world and other people is challenging. It can be hard to think about what we might do, not because we have to, but because it will make someone else happy—because it will make the world a better place.
The benefits of generosity
Why is giving back important? Whether or not we realize it, generosity is very beneficial to us. It makes us feel good about ourselves, it makes our relationships closer and warmer, and it contributes to meaning in our lives. Generosity also feeds on itself. If someone does something nice for you, you are more inclined to do something nice for someone else. We have a tendency to pay it forward.
The concept of Karma is also important when thinking about generosity. A common conception of Karma is “what goes around comes around,” but it’s more complex than that. A better way to think about it is whatever you do (or say or think) goes out into the universe, and you are part of that universe. So if you put something positive out there, you will be living in a universe that is incrementally better than it was before, and that will ultimately be beneficial to you.
One might make the argument that we are, at heart, a selfish species that doesn’t do anything that doesn’t benefit us in some way. I agree with that assessment, but it’s important how we interpret what we mean by selfish. Even the most benevolent person, who doesn’t expect anything specifically in return for their good deeds, is doing it because it makes them feel good; it makes them happy.
Aura of positivity
Incorporating generosity into our lives has a fundamental positive effect on our lives in general. If we go through life with good intentions, think positive thoughts, and engage in positive actions, we develop an aura of positivity that encompasses all aspects of our lives. The cynical “return on investment” becomes the more general “it’s all good.”
When we develop a positive aura, we tend to see the good aspects of our interactions, and we don’t dwell on the bad. It’s a process of looking at our lives through a different lens. If we can achieve this, generosity becomes second nature, something we don’t even think about. It just happens—even as part of a busy life.
Giving of who we are is also one of our main connections to the world. Our interaction with those around us can be based on what we bring to the table. Our contribution to the universe. Our stake in the cosmic poker game.
We can be generous moment to moment and day to day. We can be generous with our attitude and our emotions—not just when it is self-serving. We can engage people as a matter of course, not just those we like or those we want something from. We can give of ourselves, and we will always be better off for having done it.
We give of ourselves every day. Every time we speak to someone. Every time we interact with the world.
If we fully understand the nature of our generosity, we see that it provides excellent insights into ourselves. Each of us has something valuable we can give. It might be money, it might be time, it might be how we influence those we meet. But whatever it is, it should be an integral part of how we live our lives.
Our generosity, in whatever form it takes, is part of who we are.