Elizabeth Gilbert on Generosity as a Way of Being

This is a wonderful reminder from Elizabeth Gilbert on what it means to be generous. It doesn’t take being wealthy to be generous. It takes character. Some of the poorest human beings on this earth are the most generous beings, while some of the richest are the least. Generosity is not just about giving money. It means giving whatever you have- time, love, patience, forgiveness- to those who need it. It’s about keeping your heart open and expanding its loving energy into the world. Let us ask ourselves each morning, “How can I be more generous today?”.

“I woke up today thinking about generosity again, and remembering an interaction that happened to me many years ago, which has stuck in my mind ever since.

I was talking to a neighbor of mine about a well-known philanthropist, and I was saying how much I admired this person’s generosity. My neighbor scoffed, rolled her eyes, and said, “Well, I could be generous, too, if I was a billionaire!”

My friends, this was somebody who did not understand what the word “generosity” means.

Generosity does not mean waiting until you’re a billionaire to share yourself with the world. Generosity is about a spirit of living, not a calculus of: “How much do I have?” Generosity is way of being in the world — a way that says, “I have more than I need, and I will take the overflow of myself and share it with others.” Generosity is not only about money — in fact, it usually isn’t about money at all. Generosity is about ANYTHING that you give of yourself to your fellow man — your time, your love, your patience, your forgiveness, your acceptance, your food, your creativity, your expertise, your grace.

To possess a generous spirit has nothing to do with your income. You either have a generous spirit, or you don’t. Some of the poorest people I’ve ever met have humbled me with their generosity. Money may come and go in people’s lives, but a spirit of generosity can last forever. If all we needed in order to be generous was a pile of money, then the mega-rich among us would be the most giving, loving, tender-hearted, magnanimous people on earth…and they aren’t.

I mean, some of them are. But many of them are not.

I’ve sat in rooms with millionaires who spoke about how hard it is for them to be generous, because they aren’t sure their charitable dollars are actually going “to the right place” — and therefore, they don’t give. They shared horror stories of badly run charities, and ungrateful recipients. In the end, they all seemed to agree that it’s better not to give at all. The only thing I heard behind their conversation were the voices of people who were looking for reasons not to give of themselves to the world…because, deep in their souls, they STILL didn’t believe they had enough to share.

Generosity is not about how much you have; generosity about how much you BELIEVE you have.

And your spirit of generosity — if you are lucky enough to have one — must be protected (even more than your stuff or your status must be protected.) A wise woman once said to me: “Don’t do anything with your beautiful soul that will lessen your ability to be generous.” Don’t deplete your heart, so that you have nothing left to share with others. Don’t degrade yourself, so that you become small and hard. Don’t expend so much energy on striving and hoarding that you forget to give.

Generosity asks, “What are we here for? To increase our stash and our empire and our dominance forever? Or to push our energies outward, toward the broken world?”

Generosity is my favorite virtue. Well, that and curiosity.

My favorite people in the world are the generous and the curious.

But if forced to choose between them, I choose The Generous.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

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