What Does Being Generous Cost Us?

time is moneyYesterday was “Giving Tuesday” in the United States. If we have the means to give, charities ask us for donations. (One of my favorite charities is the Spastic Paraplegia Foundation. That’s their link to Giving Tuesday, which lasts for ten days. Even I can count, and that’s more than one day.)

That’s all about your ability to give money.

But money is the most financially expensive and least personal way to be generous. While I hope you have money to donate to your favorite charities, you have other choices.

We can give money, our time, and our appreciation—or all three.

  • Money, which is least personal and (maybe) most financially costly. We can keep an emotional distance from our giving, so there’s not much emotional cost with money.
  • Time, which rarely costs money, but does cost our personal time. In my experience (which might not mirror yours), we might have an emotional attachment to this cause, but our giving does not cost us emotionally.
  • Appreciations, or other personal, emotional, one-on-one giving. This does not cost us any money. However, depending on what we have to lose, we might incur a significant emotional cost. And if we do these appreciations right, we might incur personal costs, too.

What Do You Want to Give?

Giving requires that we have excess resources: money, time, or our emotional balance. If you don’t have excess money or time, you can’t give that.

But, assuming we can find our congruence, our emotional balance, we can always offer an appreciation. Sometimes, appreciations are the most costly to express.

It’s easy for me to appreciate people doing “normal” work. When I realize people have taken time from their personal lives to support me, that’s when I know I need to take the time to frame and offer that appreciation.

What Does it Cost You To Give?

Appreciations are personalized thank you’s. They take the form of:

“Person, I appreciate you for <something specific>. <Explain how that specific thing mattered to you.>”

Here’s an example from work:

“Susan, I appreciate you for facilitating that meeting. I was not-so-quietly going berserk-o. You stepped in, and calmed everything down, which allowed me to calm myself down and contribute. Thank you for that.”

Can you say, “Thank you” and leave it at that? Sure. As long as people realize why you’re thanking them.

If they don’t know why you’re thanking them, they might not repeat the same behaviors in the future that you found so helpful in the past. An appreciation helps you catch people doing something right.

However, appreciations cost you the time it takes to frame the appreciation. And, the more you realize the person has given their time to support you, the more you might worry that you’ll do it “wrong.” And, if you’re like me, you might have to realize you were wrong before. There’s a personal cost to admitting you were wrong in public.

Those costs—doing it wrong and recognizing you were wrong—might prevent you from offering an appreciation at all.

Offer that appreciation anyway, for practice. It’s the generous thing to do.

While you might feel uncomfortable the first few times you appreciate someone, you might discover something wonderful—that they appreciate you for what you do for them. And, you might even have a deeper conversation about the principles of why you two disagreed on this thing originally.

Generosity Does Not Have to be Expensive

Generosity, especially personal generosity, doesn’t have to cost us much at all. Maybe a little discomfort as we learn. Or maybe a little time to frame the conversation well. But, that’s often a small cost to have a real conversation. Yes, give to charities, especially if you have a charity close to your heart. And remember that the more we give personally, often, the more we get back.

That’s the question this week: What does being generous cost us?

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