Generosity is the virtue of giving not taking. Generosity is giving to another person something of yours as an act of freewill, without obligation. Generosity requires an awareness of your own freedom—I choose to give this gift—and the decision to make good use of that freedom—I choose to do good.
Although you may think first of generosity in monetary terms, often non-monetary gifts, such as time, encouragement, hope, laughter, hospitality, service, and forgiveness, may have the most value.
If you are giving to right a wrong then you are acting from justice, not generosity.
If you are giving out of a sense of obligation you are acting from reciprocity, not generosity.
If you are giving out of a sense of loyalty you are acting from solidarity, not generosity.
If you are giving out of a sense of self-interest, it is selfishness, not generosity.
If you are giving to someone you love, then you are acting from love, not generosity.
Generosity is your decision to act in opposition to hate, contempt, envy, anger, and even indifference.
Generosity keeps good company, as the following combinations of virtues show:
- Generosity + courage = heroism
- Generosity + justice = equity
- Generosity + compassion = benevolence
- Generosity + mercy = leniency
- Generosity + gentleness = kindness
The Virtue of Generosity
Aristotle describes generosity as the mean between wastefulness and stinginess.
- Help when you can.
- Perform random acts of kindness such as these examples.
- Give without hope of reward and without anticipation of gratitude.
- Enjoy the virtue of generosity.
Part 1: Perform some random act of kindness. Notice how it makes you feel.
Part 2: Study the module on Altruism in the course on What Matters.
- Comte-Sponville, André (2002). A Small Treatise on the Great Virtues: The Uses of Philosophy in Everyday Life. Picador. p. 368. ISBN 978-0805045567.
- Macomber, Debbie (2009). One Simple Act: Discovering the Power of Generosity. Howard Books. p. 224. ISBN 1439108935.
- Lerner, Michael (2002). Spirit Matters. Hampton Roads Publishing. p. 384. ISBN 978-1571743602.