On living generously…

I often make comments about my own general lack of niceness. Most people, though notably not my mother or my husband, feel obliged to refute my assertions. I am thankful for this mark of concern for my feelings – even I am not allowed to be mean to me – but I don’t really mean to insult myself. I really don’t think of myself as nice, strictly speaking – I am too blunt, too quick to find fault, too honest, too forward, too loud – I am too much for nice. But that doesn’t bother me so much. I love people collectively and individually. I don’t want to hurt anyone, I apologize quickly when I do hurt people, and I try to learn from my mistakes so I don’t hurt anyone in the same way twice. So I may not be nice, but I strive to be kind. I have recently noticed, however, that what I indubitably am not is generous. There is an element of virtue to my stinginess – I hate wastefulness, and I identify and solve problems quickly. But I overreact to messy mistakes and I identify those problems out loud and in public. And these are just the areas that I see in which a generous spirit would be more loving than mine, which begs the question: how many areas are there that I don’t see? [In the interest of kindness, I beg you all to treat this as a strictly rhetorical question and to refrain from submitting your answers here…feel free to speak to me privately, however!]

So I can “work on” being slower to point out faults or errors and on keeping my cool when stuff gets broken or lost or treated more cavalierly than I like…but I don’t actually think that addresses the root of the problem. Behavioral modification is socially helpful, but is empty apart from internal personal development. And I can seek to “feel” generous all I want, but if the feeling doesn’t change the way I relate to people, what use is it? [Incidentally, do you ever have those moments where you realize that the thing that felt so new and wise is actually something you’ve been hearing all your life? And did anyone else notice that this sounds a lot like the relationship between faith and works discussed in James 2? There really is nothing new under the sun.] So. Now what?

My mother wants me to come to an answer in my blog posts, not just leave everyone chewing on the questions and the various implications that I come up with. What does this have to do with living generously? Just this: I don’t have any answers most of the time. Of course, Jesus is never not the answer (see my birthday post to my mom). But that is who, not what. I will try to feel more generous and I will try to act more generous, but I will mostly pray that I will be more generous. But there is no answer as to how that can or will happen…and when it will happen is the greatest mystery of all.

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One thought on “On living generously…

  1. Ellen says:

    Good post, Lydia. You are clearly your mother’s daughter – insightful, perceptive, and always asking troubling questions. One of my favorite things about you both.

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