Generosity and Gratitude

Someone said in passing the other day that generosity was the flip side of gratitude.  We went our separate ways and there the discussion ended, but it got me to thinking.  What could they have meant by that?  I had not coupled these two words together with any interpretation of meaning before.

Generosity has a couple of different definitions.  To be generous is to be giving, to be kind and to be lavish and magnanimous.  It also has a definition of bounty, of abundance, of being plentiful, having a generous amount of something.  Gratitude is being thankful for someone or for what someone has done or something that has happened.  They can be similar but they also are different.  Both generosity and gratitude make me feel better, they make me feel happy.  When I am generous, I am not thinking about myself, I’m thinking about the other person and feeling that I am helping in some way.  When I am grateful I am thinking about my own abundance, seeing how much I really have in making an abundant life, and appreciating all that life is giving me. Generosity is a quality we possess and gratitude is an emotion.  They do go hand in hand.  When someone is generous to me, I feel gratitude to that person.  When I am generous to someone else, I can feel their gratitude towards me.

What happens when we feel we are being generous to someone and we don’t feel any gratitude coming back?  It actually shouldn’t matter, as being generous is generally not done so that someone will be grateful to you.  And if that is the case, that you are expecting someone to be grateful, then are you really being generous?  Generosity comes with no strings attached, no expectations; it’s a matter of going one step beyond what is expected from, as they say, “the goodness of your heart.”  That’s the part sometimes that we forget and the part of generosity that we always need to remember.  When we are generous we do feel good, we are doing it for the benefit of others and not for something in return.  We are doing it because we see someone or something in need and want to help.  That should be the only reason.

And I’m feeling a bit these days that that quality, for generosity is a quality, is lost in our culture.  I want everyone to experience that feeling of joy and abundance when giving to someone else and expecting absolutely nothing in return.  That quality should be part of the human experience, part of raising our children, part of our society.  Generosity is probably one of the most important qualities to have as human beings.

Let’s revive the quality of generosity.  And I’ll bet any money that when we do, our gratitude meter will also go up.  They are the flip side of each other in many ways and if we can hold both the quality and the emotion in our hearts, we will be grateful and generous to others.  And that is what I believe the world needs right now.

Generous and grateful blessings to you all,

Rev. Jo