Being generous is easy. It doesn’t take much skill to be generous. You do something nice for a sibling. Done. You give a co-worker a quarter at the vending machine. Done. You buy a friend lunch. Done. You give a parent a lavish birthday gift. Done, done, and done.
The power in giving comes when we begin to practice it without attachment. Try giving to others with no thought of return. Try giving to others with no thought of the benefit to yourself. Try giving to someone who has wronged you. Try giving to someone who you dislike. Try giving to someone who doesn’t look like they need anything. Try giving to that person who never says “thank you,” who never looks grateful.
This is giving without attachment. This is true generosity. Practicing it is a skill, and it takes a whole lot of work.
Ironically, the most genuine, authentic forms of giving require the greatest level of detachment. When we are emotionally invested in a pre-conceived outcome, then our act of giving is more about our own feelings and desires than it is about the benefits to the other person. If you can remove emotional attachment to the outcome, then the outcome actually changes. The outcome is no longer the observable reaction of the individual but the actual impact of the gift given.
When we give freely and without attachment, the recipient of our gifts can fully embrace that which was given. They do not have to fear reciprocation. They do not have to worry about whether or not the gesture requires a response. They do not have to worry about whether or not accepting the gift creates obligation. Instead, they can focus on the gift and the impact the gift will have in their life.
The real gift is not that which is given, though, as much as it is the fact that something was given. The impact, then, becomes the goodwill and spiritual energy that passes between two individuals. The flow of generosity from one to another strengthens the bond between them. It is mother’s milk to a potential new friendship. It is sustenance for a strong relationship.
Learning to give in this way elevates giving from an act to an art.
To develop the skills that allow us to practice our art, we need repetition. Learning to paint is no different than learning to give. Both require us to leverage repetition to help us hone our skill. It is important to practice giving, to do it over and over again, in order to become truly proficient at it. Anyone can elevate giving to the level of art. If you strive to have impact on the world, become skilled in the art of giving.
I am privileged to call him Friend.
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For more on this 21st Century Leadership Skill … Skill 5