don’t always be generous


There’s a part of me that is tired of piety. I’m tired of the what-we’re-supposed-to-do’s, reminders to always put others first, ourselves last, sacrifice for the greater good, blah blah blah.

I know, I know, we’re supposed to be generous, self-effacing humanitarians with huge hearts. Those are the people everyone looks at and says, “I want to be like that person.”

But do they (we) really? If we really wanted to be like that person, we would be. And maybe there are some really good reasons not to be.

I keep seeing people I love put themselves last, so incredibly down-in-the-ditch-that-they-have-no-chance-of-ever-catching-up-to-anyone-much-less-winning-a-race last, so erase-themselves-as-if-they-don’t-count last, that it makes me very sad. And angry.

So much “I’m not worthy” imagery, particularly in (Judeo?) Christian culture, in a culture based on Puritanism and built on slavery, is entrenched in our attitudes. Martyr ourselves. Empty ourselves. Wait for our reward in heaven. Serve others. Tell everyone else that that’s what they should at least want to do, too. Everyone’s first wish is for world peace.

But hold on. Slow down.

Often it seems that the people who preach “give-give-give” either ALREADY give of themselves and could use a little more self-promotion… or they don’t give of themselves and they sound like hypocrites, ready to take advantage of the first “servant-leader” they indoctrinate.

I want to turn to the first kind and say, “Give to yourself at least as much as you give everyone else. How about that kind of generosity?”

I want to turn to the second kind and say, “Mind your own bees-wax.”

Of course, at heart, I deeply believe in generosity, compassion, empathy, helping others as much as we can (and more than maybe we think we can), and contributing to make the world a better place. I even (quite deeply) hope and wish for world peace.

But sometimes I think these attitudes can become judgments about other people, or judgments about ourselves, or set-ups for manipulators to use the nearest kind person as a handkerchief.

I’m not a dualistic thinker – I don’t think it’s one or the other – selfishness vs. generosity, kindness vs. egotism, etc. We are complex people and every situation is different. I believe in balance.

I do get impatient, however, with self-righteous, unquestioning empty words implying that everyone just needs to give more. Because as we all know – and will admit if we’re honest – some people are already giving too much. Those people do not need to hear that message – and yet sometimes, they seem to be the only ones listening.


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