Happiness with Others 3: Be Generous of Spirit

Be emotionally transformed through generosity.

Posted Jan 30, 2014

As a psychotherapist and couples counselor, I keep my eyes peeled for new tools to help my patients find happiness within themselves and with others. Last December, my wife and I took our younger son to see a stage production of A Christmas Carol. Remember that Ebenezer Scrooge was a grasping miser who cared only about money, shutting out all human warmth and treating people with no compassion or concern. To him people were only tools to help him line his pockets.

The dramatic center of this fable occurred on Christmas Eve when Scrooge was visited by three ghosts who conducted what we would today call an intervention. They forced him to take an unvarnished look at his life and gave him an opportunity to transform his heart. 

The Ghost of Christmas Past transported Scrooge back to his youth where he saw the family warmth and happiness he no longer had. The Ghost of Christmas Present took him to the home of his employee, Bob Cratchet, whose family bathed themselves in love for each other despite the impending death of their beloved son, Tiny Tim. The Ghost of Christmas Future took him forward to his gravesite with no one remembering or caring that he had lived or died.

Sure enough, the intervention worked. Scrooge faced up to the waste and barrenness that was his life. Awakening on Christmas Day to find that he is still alive, he was a newborn man. He bounded out his front door, seeing every person he met as an opportunity to make their life nicer, warmer, richer. Right before our eyes, he became a living, breathing source of generosity. Not only did he spread the gift of happiness to others, but he experienced it himself—fully and fervently.

The spirit of generosity—what a gift to give to others and to yourself!  Imagine adding this spirit to your heart. Imagine the positive impact you’d have on others with a willingness to be relentlessly generous with them.  Imagine the goodwill you’d create by being determined to leave no encounter without some small act of generosity. Imagine how happy and fulfilled you’d feel expressing this throughout your day. 

I want to emphasize that by generosity I do not mean giving tangible things to people, though doing so might indeed be an act of generosity. It is more a spirit of self.  I think of the married couple I now counsel whose relationship was wrecked by conflict and ill will. Though they had learned to use sound communication skills, it was when they each adopted the spirit of generosity that their relationship began to soar. Without any instruction as to exactly what to do, they became attentive to each other, went out of their way to express affection, and overlooked or forgave the slights they once escalated into atrocities.

What About You?

When I think of my daily life, I think of the people who seek me out clinically to help them solve some vexing problem in their lives. I think of the people I encounter every day by accident—motorists on the street, sales clerks, the telemarketer. I think of my wife, my sons, my dear friends. Whenever I remember to think like the transformed Scrooge, my happiness quotient soars.

What about you? Would adopting the principles, “Be Generous of Spirit,” aid you in creating happiness in your life? I bet it would.

Live It

As I’ve preached in every one of my Happiness On Purpose blogs, happiness is not something the universe will bestow upon you just because you exist. To be happy, you must work at it. Being generous of spirit will go a long way toward you experiencing the happiness you so richly deserve.

To help, I offer you the following five tips.

1. Be Aware of the opportunities. If each person in the world went home each evening and treated the members of their family with generosity, the world would be transformed. So, first, be aware of the opportunities that exist with the people in your life to find ways to express generosity. As with the couple I previously mentioned, you do not need a skill-building course, just a healthy dose of awareness of the generosity opportunities, along with a willingness to act accordingly.   

2. Recognize the benefits. What you sow, so shall you reap. By acting toward others with the spirit of generosity, you will without question make a positive impression, perhaps even elicit affection, so that they will most likely be motivated to respond in kind. You now are the beneficiary of their generosity back to you. Be aware of and appreciate the benefits to you by your generosity to others. 

3. Be proud of your generous spirit. You most likely do not have the power to transform the planet, but you can make a profound difference within your little corner of the world. Start with your immediate family, then expand to your friends and colleagues, and go from there to the chance encounters you have with people during your everyday life. You can and will impact them by acting with this spirit of generosity. Quite a good thing you do. Be proud of it.

4. Teach it. When we teach something to others, we tend to learn it deeper ourselves. I have to say that this is one of the great benefits my clinical psychology practice gifts me; as I spread the mental health gospel to my patients, I find it easier to live it in my own life. Make a point to teach Be Generous of Spirit to others, particularly to your children.

5. Appreciate others’ generosity. One of my dear friends never fails to send a note of “thank you” for presents, get-togethers, and the like. In addition to appreciating these generous acts from others, note these acts and remind yourself to model them yourself.

Going Forward

Before turning you loose to Be Generous of Spirit, I offer two tidbits. One, be careful not to operate on this with the intent of manipulating others to like you; this will be phony and likely backfire. Rather do it out of an overarching sense of generosity toward life. Two, act, act, act; the only thing that will bring about any change—whether inside you, or in the world out there—is to do what’s necessary to bring about that change. So, first think generous, then act generous.

Until my next blog, live healthy, happy, and with passion.

Russell Grieger, Ph.D. is the author of several self-help books, all designed to empower people to create a life they love to live. These include: Unrelenting Drive; Marriage On Purpose; and The Happiness Handbook (in preparation). You may contact Dr. Grieger for more information at grieger@cstone.net.