What is generosity of spirit? For me, it is willingness to offer meaningful support without fear for self. Sometimes that support will take a financial form, but more likely it will come in the form of praise, thanks, promotion, assistance, compassion, or simply time. I imagine that this half of my definition resonates with most people, but what about the last part? For me, that little tag, “without fear for self,” is the most important part.
It’s interesting what causes a person to feel threatened. Many times it is the erroneous illusion that furthering the success or popularity of a particular person will diminish us. Think in terms of business. We may worry that praising the product or achievement of a business competitor, will draw revenue away from us. After all, there is an abundance of widgets and only a finite amount of money. But is that really the case? Less than we might think. More likely, the buyer is making a decision based on a variety of distinctions. Our fearful withholding of praise and acknowledgment does not strengthen our position. On the contrary, allowing fear to govern our actions weakens us by reducing our generosity of spirit.
When we give in to this competitive fear, it has a tendency to carry over into other areas of our lives, causing us to be generous with some but stingy with others. I’m not talking about an investment of money or time-consuming support, I’m referring to goodwill given freely without fear of self-diminution.
We all share this generosity of spirit with the emotionally safe people in our lives. But who are they? Generally, they are the people with whom the dynamics of our relationship is established and mutually acceptable. Both parties agree on the roles they play in each other’s lives. They accept each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They agree on their relative standing in regards to seniority, success, talent, knowledge, appearance, etc. They might even realize that the success of one will benefit the other—in business, family wealth, or reputation by association.
The emotionally risky people are the ones with whom we are still jockeying for position. These are usually people who are very close to us in occupation, skill, rank, appearance, education, talent, success, etc. They are frequently the people we see as our greatest competition. We might even think of them as our nemesis. Can you think of a person like this in your life, past or present? I can. Any increase to their popularity feels like a drain to ours. The more attention they receive, the more invisible we feel. The more success they attain, the less valuable our accomplishments feel to us. When these people do something of worth, and we withhold acknowledgment, it is not because what they did was unworthy, but because of how the worth of what they did made us feel.
So, the question for me now becomes—Do I measure the generosity of my spirit by the support I offer the emotional easy people in my life, or by the support I offer the emotionally risky ones? The first will make me feel like a better person, the latter will help me become one. I choose the latter. I can, indeed, offer meaningful support without fear for self.
If you found some value in this mindful musing, please share: A little empowerment goes a long way.