Today, we will discuss generosity and how to practice it.

Table of Contents

What is generosity?

generosity | handing bowl of tomatoes

Generosity is a necessary virtue for self-improvement.

“Altruism does not mean mere kindness or generosity, but the sacrifice of the best among men to the worst, the sacrifice of virtues to flaws, of ability to incompetence, of progress to stagnation-and the subordinating of all life and of all values to the claims of anyone’s suffering.” – Ayn Rand

Generous is “(of a person) showing a readiness to give more of something, as money or time, than is strictly necessary or expected.”

Generosity is providing help to those in need. Firstly, you provide your resources, not the resources of your neighbor or the taxpayer. Secondly, “resources” involve tangible and intangible goods. For example, you can donate your money to a local charity or converse with friends. Both actions are generous.

Generosity is about personal happiness, not self-sacrifice

sportsmanship | players shaking hands

Generosity should make you happy. You shouldn’t be generous to rid yourself of guilt.

Unlike altruism, generosity is not about self-sacrifice. You do not give up your happiness in the pursuit of charity. You are generous to enhance your happiness.

Why does generosity make you happy? Because you are improving the world through rational, virtuous means. For example, if you help a friend move, you save them money and provide them company. You’re investing in your friendship, which benefits you as well as them.

Another example is donating time, energy, or money to local charities. When you help local charities, you ensure your neighbors have food to eat, a place to stay, and their comforts met.

This generosity should fill you with rational pride. Instead of tweeting complaints, you are investing in your community. Instead of whining about government inaction, you are meeting people in need. You are becoming the solution and ensuring individuals have the resources they need to better their lives. Why shouldn’t you feel pride and happiness for doing so?

Generosity forces us to hold others accountable

rational need | conversation between friends

We are generous when we have rational standards and expectations of others.

“The most truly generous persons are those who give silently without hope of praise or reward.” – Carol Ryrie Brink

For altruists, the needs of the giver are irrelevant as long as the receiver benefits.

Firstly, the giver should always benefit from practicing generosity. If I donate to a charity, I benefit from knowing my resources help others. Unlike taxes, I can remove my support from a charity if the organization does not assist others. Thus, unlike with altruism, which preaches self-denial, I am selfishly invested in ensuring my money helps those in need. If my money is not helping others, I will not donate to the charity in question.

And please note, I am not looking for a reward. I am ensuring my resources are used to accomplish the goal I am supporting. I am not expecting perfection or praise. I am expecting an effort and the result to match what I have invested. To the altruist, this mindset is selfish and not justified.

Secondly, altruism does not care about the long-term benefits for the receiver. My resources can help someone in the present but does my charity benefit the needy in the long-run? For example, altruists love welfare because it meets the needs of the less fortunate. But welfare leads to communal decay, personal failure, and an increase in national debt.

A more generous solution is to train individuals and provide them with employment. Such a move benefits the employer and is therefore seen as “selfish” by altruists. But giving someone hard on their luck a job and a set of skills is generous. This generosity ensures the sustainable growth of the individual and the flourishing of local communities.

Why should you be generous? To remove self-obsession

self-obsessed | woman looking into mirror

When you value yourself, you have the humility to appreciate the world around you. Weak individuals are arrogant and self-obsessed.

You will not excel if you are always obsessed with your goals, accomplishments, or successes. When we focus on others, we can have a more objective view of the world and our place in it.

For example, let’s say you donate money to and spend time with a homeless person. You learn about his struggles, regrets, and situation. By knowing his pains, you can become grateful for the relative stability of your childhood. By understanding his regrets, you can better plan your own life’s path. By understanding his situation, you will learn how easy it can be to become homeless and rely on strangers’ kindness forcibly.

Remember, generosity does not remove you from the equation. You will nurture your gratitude as well as your awareness of the suffering in the world. The more appreciation you have for your life, the easier it is to control your emotions and excel through difficulties.

It’s challenging to achieve this insight from someone nagging you about being less “selfish.” However, by being generous, you can selfishly grow as an individual while ensuring those in need benefit from your personal growth.

How to be more Generous

generosity | hands palms up

Generosity involves kind acts, monetary support, volunteering, and other activities. It is not about voting, tweeting, or sacrificing your neighbor’s resources to the latest government Ponzi scheme.

“Give a bowl of rice to a man and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to grow his own rice and you will save his life.” – Confucius

Unlike collectivists, I believe generosity has to start locally. There is nothing gained by being generous to people who are not your neighbors.

Thus, my rule is to be generous to your friends, family, and neighbors before anyone else:

  • Donate to local charities to improve your community
  • Spend quality time with friends and family, so they feel loved, heard, and appreciated
  • Spend a little extra money by locally shopping to keep the lights on for your neighbors
  • Improve your behavior and attitude, so people look forward to seeing you
  • Be more competent, capable, and proactive, so you are valuable during crises and emergencies

Remember, grand gestures do not make you generous. It is the small charitable acts you should focus on and perfect. Additionally, do not brag about your generosity. You are not a collectivist. Personal improvement doesn’t need a tweet, sound bite, or victory dance.

Generosity Will Strengthen You

generosity | friends

The generous individual is strong: he has allies, purpose, and good deeds to keep him inspired and supported.

Collectivists of all stripes will argue kindness comes at the expense of individuals. It does not. Being a good person can serve your selfish desires while improving the well-being of your community.

Donating to charities keeps your community provided for. Being a good parent ensures you will receive love from your children. Being a good friend ensures others will treat you well. And so forth. If you are a generous person, you will benefit.

Therefore, stand firm. The altruistic way of self-sacrifice ensures manipulators can undermine your power as an individual. You do not have to sacrifice your happiness for the sake of others.

Become an individual and thrive as you should.

Reading List

Finding True Happiness by FR. Robert Spitzer, SJ – Happiness is cultivated by serving the needs of those you love and care for. Fr. Robert Spitzer, SJ, makes a case for why we need to engage productively with our community. Remember, the goal is not self-sacrifice, but self-fulfillment by ensuring those closest to us live better lives.


“If we are going to be kind, let it be out of simple generosity, not because we fear guilt or retribution.” – J.M. Coetzee

  1. How can you be more generous? Who within your life could use more of your time, energy, and resources?
  2. Have you ever been generous to someone who was unappreciative? How did you feel? Were you able to be graceful and patient with the individual?
  3. Have you ever been taken advantage of? How can you prevent it from happening again?

Please remember that it’s important to do the actionables. You’re not on this earth to simply read but to do. To become an individual, you must act more than you consume.

*Image credit to Unsplash.