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Photo by Howard Lake/Flickr

Generosity as a spiritual practice

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Photo by Howard Lake/Flickr
Photo by Howard Lake/Flickr

Whenever we give joyfully and freely of what we have, whether that is time, money, or skills, we are being generous.

Acts of generosity almost always make us smile.

A little girl pesters her mother for a candy bar in the grocery store line and after she finally wheedles it out of her, hands it the crying boy behind them.

“Why?” her mother asks perplexed.

“I heard his mother tell him there would be no more candy until she got another job,” the girl explains.

But let’s admit it.

Generosity can be hard.

While Americans are often generous, American culture itself does not particularly nurture generous spirits.

Americans believe in individualism. Everyone should do it themselves we are taught. We learn at an early age that those who have great wealth and talent did do it themselves. Why should we share?

Consumer culture with all its shiny, alluring stuff and experience acts as a damper on generosity. “What do I want?” we ask. “What do I deserve?” With such distractions who has the time and money to be generous?

Generosity is the opposite individualism and consumerism. When we act as individualists and consumers, we use our life energy to meet our needs and desires. When we are generous we use our life energy to meet the needs of others.

Generosity is love in action. It is powerful and transformative. When we give we create relationships. We extend ourselves and our values into the world. Using our life energy, we tie ourselves to organizations and people that matter to us, claiming them with our hearts and our time. When we claim them, they claim us, and we become connected. Our relationship is another strand in the web of life.

It is no wonder that research shows that people are happier giving to others rather than buying for themselves. When we give we belong, and we belong to those we care about.

Being generous is an incredibly potent spiritual practice in our age because it directly challenges our individualistic, consumer culture. When we are generous we say, people are not just individuals, we need each other. When we are generous we say more stuff and experiences are not the meaning of life, but relationships with others is the meaning of life. When we are generous, we say, we do not need more. Instead, we stand in gratitude before the bounty of the universe, saying thank you, thank you, thank you.

About Tracy Springberry

Tracy Springberry is a Unitarian Universalist minister. She serves the North Idaho Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Coeur d’Alene.

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One comment

  1. Just loved this, Tracy. Wow.

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