“A man’s highest happiness is found in the bestowal of benefits on those he loves.”
––Wallace D. Wattles
A few months ago, I had a conversation with someone I admire and who has been very generous to me. The conversation, in effect, went like this: Thank you for how kind you've been to me, but what can I do for you? In fact, if there isn't an opportunity to give to you, I don't know that I can allow you to continue to be so generous to me.
I know. I know.
When you play it back, you cringe. At least I do.
There is much that is wrong with this. By taking that direction in the conversation I was trying to undermine this person’s impulse to be generous. Not consciously—I wouldn’t with malice be so ungenerous as to disallow someone else’s opportunity to be generous. But subconsciously I’m insisting that the relationship be transactional; it’s a no generosity zone. Way to ruin someone's day. For which I will apologize.
Insisting that relationships should always have a perfect equality of ‘give and get’ completely eliminates the possibility that sometimes the scale is unbalanced because of simple goodness. That there are people (and those people are you and me, at least some of the time) who are trying to be kind and want to do kind things. We want to pay for someone else's meal in the cafeteria line. We want to work hard without the people we work for always thinking we want more money. Or more of something. Part of our identity involves being generous. We want the gratification that comes from giving of ourselves to help others.
But if there are helpers everywhere and no one is willing to be helped, then what? Think about it. How often does someone offer to do something for you, and you don't want to allow it?
There are many kindnesses and unexpected moments of grace waiting for us.
It’s a big IF—If we will receive them.
Hear a beautiful story of acceptance in this week’s podcast. We interviewed Marco Trecroce, the CIO at Four Seasons Hotel and Resorts. His leadership from a technology transformation standpoint, and the impressive personal disruption that accompany it are alone worth the listen–––but it is the transformation that makes the giving possible. Listen until the end to hear more of the story. They gave, and the beneficiary was willing to receive. Making magic.
When someone wants to give you a hand today, will you let them? It doesn't mean you will owe them. Believe that they are giving because they want to. Period. The impulse to be generous with nothing expected in return.
Accept the gift.
P.S. Congratulations to Adrian Gostick and Chester Elton (you can listen to him on the podcast here) on the launch of their new book Leading With Gratitude. It's carefully researched, witty and packed with a hundred practical tips.