There is a temptation to envision “a generous person” as kind, compassionate, selfless — almost angelic. This picture of how to be a generous person is not accurate. True generosity often accompanies qualities like kindness and empathy, but it is a separate trait. It is built on top of the qualities and passions each of us already have. In fact, trying to become someone different, or relying too heavily on qualities like selflessness, can end up hurting your generous spirit.
You Don’t Need to Change Your Heart, Display It
“I’m not a good person.” “I’ve never given before.” Are these reasons not to take a generous action?
The reality is that we have probably all given something before. Every person has a style of giving that suits them best because it flows from their own personality and heart. Have you given your time, listening to a friend during a rough circumstance? Have you been generous with your tongue, freely giving compliments and encouragement? Maybe you have shared your skills and talents, fixing someone’s computer or making them a meal. If so, you have likely given out of your heart, in ways that make sense to you. That is what God desires.
“Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ.” — 1 Peter4:10-11, NIV
It starts with receiving God’s love. If we recognize that God is blessing us, blessing others becomes a natural overflow of His love and grace for us. There is no strategy, curriculum, or special status required to unlock generosity. Bring out what God has given you — your talents and the good in your heart.
A Tough Love
Generosity is not just about being nice. The person who thinks they must be nice in order to give may fall into the trap of never saying no, struggling to set boundaries. Boundless “niceness” probably will not help anyone. Instead, true generosity requires a certain amount of patience, prudence, and self-discipline.
There are many generous people who wouldn’t label themselves as nice. Some ask hard questions of the people or charities they support. They look for feedback from the recipient and might look to give feedback to the recipient. Some of the most generous people we know are respected for showing this deeper love and support for the long-term vision and success of nonprofit work.
Build Your Support
Another temptation you might encounter is to think of generosity as a one-way transaction. As the giver, you feel the need to be independent and self-sufficient. You want to refuse the help, recognition, and support that might make your efforts more effective — or might even serve your needs.
Truthfully, this generosity hurts. It is not honoring to God. Paul’s famous “body of Christ” metaphor makes it clear that God did not design any of us to operate independently.
“The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I don’t need you!’ And the head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you!’” — 1 Cor 12:21, NIV
The irony of refusing help is that it can burn you out and make you a worse giver. The energy you have to help others can slowly deplete if you do not humble yourself to accept love from others, too. Selflessness is a beautiful trait, but it does not mean that you must not receive. Receive with the willingness to give back, giving thanks and recognition to God, for He is the reason you are able to give.
Explore these two things:
- Your strengths within generosity. What are your personal strengths and talents? How could you channel those gifts to serve others?
- Your acceptance of grace. God pours out his love for us, going so far to offer His Son for our transgressions. How can you mirror this grace and allow it to overflow on others?