This is an excerpt from the book I am writing called, “Living Your Purposeful Life”.
Recently, I went to the movies with my wife and her sister. In preparation for the movies, I went online and purchased the tickets for all three of us. When we got to the movies, my sister-in-law gave me money for her ticket. I was not asking for it, nor did I expect it. So, I just took her money and with that, I got into an argument with my wife. She said, she was more generous than I was because I accepted the money from her sister. I told her generosity had nothing to do with me taking the money. Me taking the money was more about receiving than being generous. Being generous was paying for the tickets with no expectation of getting anything in return.
Me being generous is all the money that I donate to charities. All the lunches and coffees that I buy for my friends. The driving that I offer to take or pick up my father-in-law. In all of these cases, I am not expecting the charities to give back to me. I am not expecting my friends to buy me lunch or coffee and you know what, I usually get something back in return. I get lunches and free coffees. May be not from the people I gave to, but does that really matter? Am I keeping track of the number of lunches I have purchased and for whom? No! I am giving them without expectation.
Can you be too generous? Yes. If you are uncertain, ask yourself, why am I buying lunch for my friend? If you get something other than, because I would like to, then you may have a problem. Are you being generous to them because you want them to be your friends? Are you buying them lunch to impress them? Are you buying them lunch because they forced you to? When you are truly being generous, you should feel good about doing something for that person and not feel drained because you are doing something that does not feel like you have to do it. Yea, you may “have to” do it because they bought lunch yesterday and there was an agreement that you would buy them lunch, but this gives you an opportunity to receive and to give!
The other side of being generous is being able to receive. If somebody wants to give you something, just receive it. Do not try and give them something in return. Think about this, how many times has somebody given you a compliment only for you to give one back to them in the same breath. Can you just receive it? Try it. I was at a seminar where I purposely just received the compliments that people were giving me. At first, it was hard, but after a while, just receiving the compliment allowed the compliment to soak in and the compliment felt so much better, like I really received the compliment.
Try this. When somebody gives you a compliment, say, “thank you,” and then take a deep breath and feel the compliment they are giving you. Let your whole body experience the compliment that they gave you. You may end up saying thank you a few more times. Again, at first, this will feel really strange, because you probably never really received the compliments that people were giving you.
As you get good at compliments, work up to just receiving what people are giving you. If somebody wants to buy you lunch, let them. Yes, sometimes people will be trying to give you something with the expectation of getting something in return, and I think there are two things you need to do. First, really be grateful for what they are giving you, and second, drop the feeling that you feel you need to give back to them. Expectation is their issue, you accepted their generosity without the expectation and you were grateful for it.
Now, if somebody is generous to you, it does not mean that you can not be generous to them. You can be generous, but you do not have to do it right now! If your friend buys you lunch today, accept it and be grateful for it, and buy them lunch on another day.
If you are not certain if somebody is being generous to you or not, you can ask something like, “do you want some money for that?” or, “how much do I owe you?” and they will tell you if they want you to pay or not and if they do not want you to pay now, be grateful for what they did, even if they want you to pay the next time, be grateful that they paid this time and really receive it.
Think about this for a moment. You are at the coffee shop and you want to buy your friend a coffee and they will not let you. How do you feel? Think about it for a moment. You were trying to be generous and you could not.
What about this one? You give a friend a compliment and they give you one in return. This one will be a bit harder because you may be used to it, and it happens all the time, but does it really feel like you gave somebody a compliment if they give you one in return?
In thinking about the movies last night, I was on the end of both giving and receiving. I gave in the fact that I bought the tickets with no expectation of getting anything in return for the tickets and I received when I got the money from my sister-in-law. In this case, there was time between the giving and the receiving. I bought the tickets before we went to the movies and did not receive until I got to the movies. It may seem strange, but I can really feel the giving and the receiving in this situation. Had my sister-in-law asked if she could pay, I would have said she did not, but she put the money in my hands. So, I received it.
Think about your previous week. How many times did you give this week and expect something in return? How many times did you give and it bounced back to you? How many times did you just receive? How many times did you receive and felt that you needed to give something in return? How many times did you receive and wanted to give something in return?
Go forward this week and look at those moments of giving and receiving and enjoy each of them on their own.