A Generous Assumption


I’m a shameless fan of the meditation app, Headspace.  I know, I know, I should be well beyond guided meditation and floating cross-legged amidst the wafting nirvana of Transcendental Meditation.  Oh well, I suppose I’m quite fine in my elementary, yet devoted practice of guided meds.  

Last week I started a new pack (there are all these helpful packs you can choose from that focus on things like sleep, anxiety, change, and the like).  For some reason I was really drawn to the new meditation pack focusing on generosity.  God must have know I’d need a little extra nudge in this direction because unbeknownst to me at the time, I desperately did by about Thursday.

Each day I’d sit to meditate, Andy--the adorable British guide--dropped these punchy insights about generosity. One that stood out was the importance of practicing generosity inward to ourselves regularly before we expect ourselves to extend it outwardtoward others.  

Now, generosity is a quality and practice I highly value.  It’s right up there with authenticity, gratitude, and consistency...in no specific order.  In my research along the way, I’ve learned that the happiest, most whole-hearted people in the world practice six core things regularly: mindfulness, gratitude, vulnerability, belief in a higher power, self-care (exercise being a big part of this), and you guessed it, generosity. 

Later on in the week, I started to feel myself slowly slipping into the abyss of a judgy, resentful sludge.  You know the feeling: you’ve given someone something special, such as a meaningful compliment or thoughtful gift, and don’t get as much as a “thank you” in return.  Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Ouch! 

You start to realize this is happening quite often and that beautiful spirit of generosity you pride yourself in has come to a screeching halt. You now have a strange resemblance to Cinderella’s evil step sisters combined and on Adderall.  Not a good look.  What went wrong?  Why do people suck so much? Why do I even care? 

Does this sound familiar?

When this happens to me, I want to pull the reigns of generosity wayyyyy back and self-protect in the recess of isolation.  I go into scarcity mode.  I plop down heavy on the high and mighty throne of victimhood and swiftly wave my entitled wand of criticism.

Perhaps the most life-giving truth I’ve learned about generosity from Brené Brown’s work is that the most generous people are also  those with the strongest boundaries, meaning they are crystal clear with others about what’s okay and what’s not okay.  The only way we can practice intrinsic, unbridled generosity with others is to beef up our own boundaries.  Why?  Because the healthiest, most loving relationships are the ones with the clearest guidelines.  

I can only assume the best about people if I’m honest with myself and others about my needs.  If I don’t first extend generosity and compassion to myself, I will expect this need to be filled externally by someone who hasn’t the foggiest idea what I’m looking for.  

This messy brand of generosity never ends well...much like a shot of apple cider vinegar without the honey.  The good intentions don’t quite balance out the bitterness.  Without boundaries, making generous assumptions about others is tricky, if not impossible.  

Constantly overextending yourself emotionally, physically, or financially in the name of being nice, flexible, and fun isn’t really generosity after all.   It’s an attempt to “fit in” and be liked as opposed to authentic and true.   

The ones who don’t return your lovely, if not misguided, attempt at generosity are your most valuable teachers.  Learn from them. They are your constant crash-course in Boundaries 101.  

Show up to class, pay attention, take good notes, oh, and save me a seat next to you. 

Love & Gratitude,