Is generosity the key to happiness?

When I talk to people about generosity the first thing that comes into their mind tends to be money. There are many levels of generosity that I will come to later but let’s begin with the idea of money and stuff. Most selfishness, xenophobia and meanness is about our inability to share money, possessions and things.

Now, many psychologists tell me that selfish hoarding is a natural selection trait that developed in the evolution of our social psychology to ensure individual survival and the survival of our genes in the gene pool, ‘the selfish gene’ and all that. I can see that, and I see how we as groups developed socially to create alpha males and alpha females right through to the entire inequality of social structure that now dominates all human interactions today. The only thing is, that I really don’t buy it, I don’t believe it, I don’t believe that this is simply the way that it is.

Equality in action. When I look at the remaining hunter gatherers on the planet, who are the nearest that we can get to our ancestors, I see an equality that does exist in the agricultural, urban and industrial societies of today. For hunter gatherers everything is shared. It is a case of WE own this not I own this. When a hunter from the group catches an animal to eat, it does not belong to the hunter alone it is shared equally with the group. The sense of my and mine is superseded by the collective of we and ours.

Can you imagine a world where we shared our food so that no one went hungry? We shared our resources and technology so that everyone had a place to live, were warm and safe?

Generosity requires that we examine our current concepts of ownership and perhaps make some adjustments for the good of us all. My fear is that if we do not we will begin to see the decline of humanity.

So what about other areas of generosity?

Physical generosity
To hold a door open, help someone on or off a bus, to help someone across the road, cut their grass, to go out of your way to help them ‘doing’ something is an act of physical generosity.

Social generosity
To check that another person is okay, that they have a dinner at Christmas, that they are not alone or lonely, to run them to the hospital, look after their kids, pick them up when they fall down are acts of social generosity.

Experiential generosity
To run scout clubs, take the poorly to Lourdes, to raise money for charity e.g. comic relief, children in need, cook meals for the homeless and help in the homeless shelter on Christmas Day, to run a Newspaper that only tells good news are all forms of experiential generosity.

Financial generosity
To give 10% of your net income to the poor and needy, to support children in foreign countries, to give money national and international appeals are all forms of financial generosity.

Responsible generosity
To sit on committees, to be a school governor, to be an advocate, to help out in the local CAB, to volunteer to help adults to learn to read and write, to set up protest groups against planning applications, to fight for the rights or those killed at Hillsborough are all forms of responsible generosity.

Spiritual generosity
It may not feel like it but when you open the door to someone who wants to save your soul by promoting their faith, is their act of spiritual generosity. To act Dharmically, to always do the right thing, and to do your best in every situation, to consciously not hurt or damage other people and if you do then doing your best to repair any damage, to try and get the best for all, are acts of spiritual generosity.

To have an open heart, sharing love and care, doing what you can to help and assist others in whatever way is necessary and appropriate is generosity.

One last thing. To be able to accept the generosity of others requires that you have a generosity towards yourself. Charity begins at home we cannot accept the help and generosity from another if we do not value ourself, feel worthy and worth it. First love yourself, then love others.

Take care and be happy
Sean x