The Spirit of Giving
Generosity involves a willingness, at least, and an eagerness, at best, to give. It does not demand that every offer be accepted. It does require that no offer be made unless it is truly meant, that the gift is truly available, and that it is truly something the one who offers has the right and the ability to give. But this is not as far as one can go. It is possible to be quite generous and, at the same time, quite selfish, by giving only what one cares nothing about being parted from or that which takes no effort to provide. Unselfishness calls for a willingness, at least, and an eagerness, at best, to give up that which one could still want or might still need for oneself or to provide that which takes an extra effort to furnish to another. What is more, a true spirit of giving is filled with love and respect. Without love, sacrifice is a self-serving and decadent display of competitiveness or heroics, satisfies one's own desire to flatter oneself, or can be corrupted into a tool of punitive or spiteful action against oneself or another. Without respect, an attitude of condescension and even disdain towards the one who receives can easily be harbored.
If there is selfishness and a lack of love and respect in the act of giving, the hungry person will still be fed by the gift of a meal. But the giver will, at best, be no more changed or filled than if nothing had been done at all. The giver's relationship to the to the giving becomes lost and, within that person, the gift is rendered empty. Additionally, trust on the part of the receiver can actually be damaged in a subtle but profound way. Consider the experience of having the feeling that one who helps you really cares nothing for you and is just responding to your needs out of a sense of obligation to ideals or, perhaps, even for something less noble. Not only would such a person's kind words eventually become noise to you, but the sense that others might be doing the same thing would likely have quite a cumulatively damaging effect. Over time, one who continues to be exposed to this might come to have difficulty feeling and trusting in caring sentiment, even when it is truly there. If you help someone without love and respect, you may not be the first to do so, nor may you be the one to do it at the point at which that person tips from still being able to trust to losing that ability. But do you really want to be anywhere in that chain, even simply as part of the lead in to that point or as a confirmation to that individual of why lack of trust is justified, thus compounding the problem?
And so, when you give, remember that respect ensures that love is genuine and relevant, love causes sacrifice to matter, and sacrifice is what gives generosity meaning. With all things, begin with love and respect. Sacrifice is not always called for, as another's needs may not always be met by great effort or by that which you want or need for yourself. But be prepared, when it is right, to pay a price by what you give. If this sacrifice is made lovingly and respectfully, the giving is worth far more than the price you pay for the gift.
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