The Joy of Generosity
I am lucky to live in a neighborhood that includes a wide range of people. There are newly wed couples, retirees, Emory University students, families with young children and a great group of single women. I met Connie on a river and found out that we lived around the corner from each other. She introduced me to a group of single women in the ‘hood’ of a certain age who get together once or twice a year. I love it because they are such great women, Connie most of all. It takes time but eventually people learn, in addition to being a nurse at Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital, Connie also works for Doctors without Borders. She will tell you, if you ask how she became friendly with a family in Tibet while she was on a trek. What she is less likely to share is that she paid their children’s way through school so they could get an education. She is the kind of woman the rest of us strive to be. She has still calm center that radiates joy. Her generous spirit is both an inspiration and a blessing. This is in sharp contrast to a woman I work with who is the embodiment of the self sacrificing martyr.
The root word of sacrifice means to make sacred. When some thing is sacred it becomes holy and the presence of God is felt. The difference between a martyr and a person who is sincerely generous is their intention, that and their attachment to the outcome. A sincerely generous person is unattached to what people think. They have no hidden agenda. The willingness to help bubbles up from their spirit and nourishes them and everyone around them. They are a like a drink of cold spring water on a hot day. A martyr, on the other hand, pollutes relationships and what they do with their unspoken need to be a victim. They do and do and do and complain and complain, maybe not directly but the message is there. “Poor me, no one appreciates how much I sacrifice for them, sigh.”
There is joy in being sincerely generous and giving. It’s a great feeling. I read that the one thing everyone agrees as a cure for depression is exercise and giving. I read it in a Nevada Barr mystery this afternoon so I won’t vouch for how accurate it is. It has a ring of truth though. It feels good to give. If I’m in a mood, doing something for someone else is better than Prozac. It’s almost as good as younger men who flirt with older women. It feels nice. And I get to skip the gym, always a plus in my book.
We could all benefit from more joy in our lives. Martyrs miss out on the joy of giving which is a shame. The negativity of being a martyr contaminates the very thing they are trying to do. They end up with nothing except people who resent them and don’t want to spend time with them. Sounds like a poor payoff to me. I’ll take joy any day, thank you very much.