“You cannot give what you do not have.”
~ John C. Maxwell
When you think of people who are generous, what do they have to give? I know a bunch of folks who are really generous, but they are financially stable enough to give more than others.
What about those folks who are wealthy but keep it all to themselves? They seem to think that they can take it with them after they die. Unfortunately, I think they die broke, they have no emotions, relationships or fulfillment.
I believe life fulfillment comes from giving back to others. It’s like Benjamin Franklin who didn’t patent his inventions because he believed it was a way to give back to mankind. WOW, think about it, he invented: Bifocals, lightning rods, the Franklin stove, the glass harmonica, a Flexible Urinary Catheter, the odometer and swim fins. (http://www.ushistory.org/franklin/info/inventions.htm) It was amazing what a person could accomplish before television was invented.
Bill and Melinda Gates are very generous. Using his knowledge, Bill has made a bunch of money. Now he and his wife spend their time giving it away to help others.
It seems like there are a few different levels of generosity, here’s my take on it;
Basement – These are the people who don’t take the time to find their strengths and rely on other people/organizations/government to help meet their basic needs. The majority of the time people at this level have a victim mentality, they blame others for their condition in life.
Now don’t take me wrong. I know people who are very generous that rely on government assistance. What they need to think about is being generous to themselves first. If they could improve their own position in life they could have more resources to help others.
Bottom – This is when you use your strengths to become more successful. You start to learn who you are and begin to build your knowledge, experience and finances.
Middle – You’re in a position to help those closest to you and your local community. You’ve gained the experience and resources to be more generous. Others respect you for what you do or have done.
Top – Knowing and using your god given gifts to help better mankind. You found your passion and achieved great success doing what you love. But success is about what you did to gain resources for yourself, significance is achieved by giving those resources to others. It doesn’t have to be monetary, it can be the most valuable thing we all have, time.
I don’t mean to belittle anything someone may be doing to add value to others. If you’re doing anything then great, keep it up. Look at the levels of generosity and think what you can do to move up to the next level.
But! Remember that you cannot give what you do not have.
Generosity starts with giving of yourself, and that may be giving yourself to an occupation that gives you better options when you retire. You’ll be financially stable enough to give your time to what you’re passionate about.
It reminds me of a thought by John C. Maxwell on the three phases in life, you learn, you earn, and you return. You need to give to yourself first by providing yourself with the right resources to make a earning. Once you do that, at the end you have the ability to return what you earned. For some that may be large amounts of money, for others that may be large amounts of time.
When judgment day comes I don’t think it matters which one it is, money or time, as long as you did what you could do to make your world a better place because,
“Generosity consists not the sum given, but the manner in which it is bestowed”
James Allen in his book Byways of Blessedness writes, “The miser who clings to his money and will not give up any of it because of the pleasures which its possession affords him cannot have any of the material comforts of life. He lives in continual want and discomfort in spite of all his wealth.”
I’m confused, probably because I’ve never been monetarily wealthy, but if you can have anything, how can you still be unhappy? I know the saying is that you can’t buy happiness, so why do people try?
In John’s book “The 21 Indispensable Qualities of a Leader” he gives three areas to cultivate generosity;
1) Give something away. Give something you truly value away to someone else who needs it. If possible, do it anonymously.
2) Put your money to work. Do you know someone who is doing great things, provide them resources? Put your money to work for something that will outlive you.
3) Find someone to mentor. Once you reached a certain level in life it’s time to give back to others. Give them time and resources for them to become a better leader.
As they say, December is the month for giving, what are you going to give in order to improve your generosity?