“GENEROSITY consists not of the sum given, but the manner in which it is bestowed”
I just love some of the pure wisdom that comes out of Mahatma Gandhi’s mouth.
To sustain GENEROSITY as a way of life, unless we include ourselves among those we are GENEROUS with, we will burn out, eventually feel exploited, resentful and become depressed about relationships becoming too one-way.
Those who complain about too many “takers” in their lives indicate the need to review personal boundaries. GENEROSITY without healthy and robust personal boundaries cannot be sustained as a lifestyle.
In 1984, psychologist Nancy McWilliams coined the term “pathological altruism”. In recovery circles we also have a couple of words for this like “helpaholics” or “chronic rescuers.” Nancy is referring to someone who has a compulsive need to offset guilt, shame or other negative feelings at the sight of another’s suffering by devoting their life to humanitarianism. This altruism turns destructive when people end up hurting the very things they want to help. Think animal hoarders. Therefore, there are various shades of unhealthy GENEROSITY that can appear in our intimate, professional and social life that may be due for a review.
GENEROSITY in its purest form is given as an act of love for others and ourselves, not only for others. If the act of giving doesn’t feel right, healthy, joy-filled and nourishing afterwards, it may be more about rescuing than GENEROUSLY sharing our heartfelt gesture or gift.
If we feel the urge to swoop in as someone’s savior, it’s wise to first take a moment to consider whether the target of our altruism actually wants or needs our assistance. If it is only about them, or only about us, our emotional agenda needs reviewing. However, if it feels healthy for us, and our gesture will not invade, disrespect, embarrass or force the other against their will to align with what we desire for them, then our GENEROSITY will provide a win, win. Nourishment for both hearts is the way we sustain a GENEROUS-hearted lifestyle. If it is all about them we are destined to become resentful martyrs long term. If it is all about us the other party will feel uncomfortably indebted.
Sincere GENEROSITY is not just about being nice. Most people confuse being GENEROUS with being nice, but research reveals the two are very separate qualities. Being a nice person is about courtesy: we are friendly, polite, agreeable and accommodating. When we think we always have to be nice in order to give we fail to set boundaries, rarely say no and become doormats, letting others walk all over us exploiting our GENEROSITY.
Healthy GENEROSITY is not about altruism. Too often we are told that giving does not count unless it is completely selfless. In reality, though, giving just is not sustainable when it is completely selfless. For example, studies reveal that people who consistently give altruistically with no concern for their own interests are the most prone to burnout and depression. Ironically, they are also less likely to stick with helping and volunteering long term, because they are just too bloody exhausted to keep giving.
I personally enjoy sharing the abundance I have been blessed with, but have been taught that I cannot sustain living GENEROUSLY unless I secure my own oxygen mask before coming to the assistance of others. Although it may seem to some that our motives may be less purely altruistic because we include ourselves among those we are GENEROUS to, our level of Emotional Fitness will keep increasing nonetheless, and those we help will feel grateful not indebted. When GENEROSITY includes a win, win philosophy this allows us to give more love and respect to others and ourselves consistently.
As the psychologist Mark Snyder writes …
“Ironically… it may be those volunteers who themselves are motivated by the most selfish of motivations who, in the long run, end up offering the greatest benefits to other people. This does not mean that they expect anything back from the people they help. It simply means that when they give GENEROUSLY, they also keep their own interests in the rearview mirror. The productively GENEROUS choose to help in ways that are energising rather than exhausting.”
So as we review the role GENEROSITY plays in our lives a quick Emotional Fitness tip will help clarify any confusion that arises. If kindness, honesty and humour are absent in our own heart as we are GENEROUSLY giving we are destined to have it bite us in the bum down the track.
It is also helpful to remember that receiving is as necessary to our emotional health and wellbeing as giving is. If we never ask another for a hand we deprive the people in our life of the joy of giving. Deliberate GENEROSITY can boost our wellbeing by strengthening relationships and injecting meaning into our lives, revitalizing us rather than draining us. Consciously working on our GENEROSITY helps in making us wiser, allowing us to advance the common good without becoming martyrs. And it can free up time to be amazed by the beauty and wonder of humanity around us. A GENEROUS and grateful heart is wealth no money can ever buy. As Waylon Lewis reminds us …
“GENEROSITY, kindness, honesty and humour make us truly rich.”
Lotsa Love Cynthia xxx
© Copyright 2016 Cynthia J. Morton Emotional Fitness™