What I'm talking about with my clients this week
All religions teach generosity as a pathway to joy, happiness, and connectedness. Letting go of our own selfish needs, desires, and narrow self-centeredness begins here. Can too much generosity be bad?
Women were taught as children that to be good people, we need to give of ourselves, and so we do. We give our time, money, energy, commitment, loyalty, and often to the detriment of our own welfare. Almost all of my clients find themselves in a situation where they are upset, angry, or resentful because they are giving too much. But too much generosity isn't the problem; it's generosity without boundaries, or discrimination.
We don't understand why we seem to be doing what we are taught, but feel angry, frustrated, exhausted, and dissatisfied. Women should be fulfilled and happy when we give to others, and those around us should be happy with us. Why isn't it satisfying and rewarding? Why doesn't it bring happiness?
Part of the problem lies, I think, in the lack of guidelines about generosity. Generosity is important, it does lead to happiness, but it has to be thoughtful and discretionary. It's wise to have guidelines about your generosity both for you and the other people. Most of us don't, and because of that, we can give without discretion.
Most of us believe that we were given as children that we didn't ask for and we don't question. The belief here might go something like this. To be loved and be a good person, I need to give my time, attention, and money if people need it because that's what a good person does.
The problem with this belief is it's not true. If all you do is give to others, you will wind up with an empty cup, and you cannot pour from an empty cup. You matter. To be happy and do good in the world, you have to make wise decisions about being generous.
I suggest to my clients they learn to be discretionary with their generosity. It is good to be generous and not necessarily easy, but it should be an actual choice that you think about.
Who are you being generous with?
Is this a person who deserves your generosity? Is this a person who is manipulating you or taking advantage of you in some way? Is this someone who will use your generosity for harm? For example, is this friend who ALWAYS talks more than they listen, yet you are generous with your time? Is this a friend who is engaged in toxic behaviors, and you are lending her money? Is this a child who is not cleaning his room, and you are doing it for him? These are not the right reasons. Don't be generous to those who are harming with your generosity. This leads to problems and is the topic of about half of my therapy sessions. So many good people do!
Why are you being generous?
Are you generous because you think you know the answer and have the best advice for someone? Is it because you want someone to love you, and you feel you must make a laundry list of things for them to feel you are good enough? Is it because you feel guilty if you aren't generous? In this case, you can be overly generous with your time and emotional energy and be exhausted and resentful at the end of the day at your partner and loved ones. These are not the right reasons.
If you are giving money, what is the money for? Will you be giving this freely or expecting something in return? Do you trust the person will not misuse or harm the money? Are you getting your name published somewhere for the money you give? Getting fame or recognition for an act of generosity will not get you the same results. Please note that I am not talking about homeless people here in my post. However, if this is what comes to mind, an easy solution when we talk about generosity with this population is carrying kits with your rather than cash.
How do you feel after being generous?
Do you feel free? Light? Happy? Joyful? That's the feeling you are aiming for. If you don't have it, you likely haven't got the first two right.
Watch this great video about generosity
I spend so much of my therapy sessions with my female clients, talking about how they can be better people. They all talk about being generous and kind as important values they hold, but being generous and kind has to include yourself! I'm so lucky I get to do this work. Suppose you practice guidelines for generosity where you can really experience the true benefits with the people you love or strangers. And when people are generous with you, remember, they too are experiencing benefits; it's a reciprocal experience.
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