I’ve been thinking a lot about generosity. There are so many ways to be generous, but I think the kind of generosity that gets the most attention is financial generosity. And this is important. So much good and charitable work could not happen without the generosity of many. So this definitely matters, a lot. And, I am definitely someone who champions a good cause with a financial donation.
This said, I think there are a lot of other ways to be generous too and we need to remember them. And give ourselves credit for them. And keep striving to be more generous whenever we can.
In addition to being generous with money, being generous with our time is equally important. The same sentence I wrote earlier could apply here: So much good and charitable work could not happen without the generosity of many. Sharing our time – often scarce, personal, discretionary time – is incredibly important.
And then there’s being generous with how we perceive others and interact with others – and how we perceive ourselves too. I think this may be the hardest form of generosity.
Brené Brown says, “We practice generosity when we extend the most generous interpretation possible to the intentions, words, and actions of others.” This is the kind of generosity I’ve been thinking the most about. It is not always easy, or natural, but I am starting to realize that it may be the most important kind of generosity. I think many unproductive stories we tell ourselves start when we do not extend generous interpretations. I can think right now of much stress and confusion I could have avoided if I was more generous with my assumptions (or even if I simply held off on making an interpretation until whatever conversation or event took place). I think this is the most generous thing I can do, and I’m going to be working on this.
For me, sometimes the hardest part of self-improvement and focusing on different areas that need development is not me trying to do things differently but instead it’s when I feel like the people around me are not only not focused on those same areas, but are doing the exact thing I’m trying not to do. This happens to me with gratitude all the time. I am a big believer in the practice of gratitude, and I believe that there is always something for which you can be grateful. When I hear people talking who don’t seem to be as in touch with gratitude as me, it’s frequently hard for me to listen. I try to think in my mind of something the person could be grateful for if she or he was open to it. I also try to think of something for which I’m grateful when I’m listening. It helps change the energy, even if it’s only my energy. (And yes, I realize that this does not always help me be an active listener…that’s another focus area for another time.)
So, now as I think more about generosity in thought and in assumption, I know the same thing will happen. I know I am going to get frustrated with people around me who don’t seem to get this, including myself because I definitely do not always get this. But I’ll try to use these times to become even better at it and to assume something generous about the people around me, especially when those people are not extending generosity to the people around them – or even to me.
Generosity requires a lot from us. It requires us to be open and to be humble, to understand that life is – and we are – imperfect, to not assume everything is always about us, and to share kindness – in our thoughts, our time, our resources.
In other words, Hashtag Goals.
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