Would you consider yourself a generous person?
If you asked me this question ten years ago I would have answered, "For sure." Recently, however, I don't think I would answer the same, instead I would tell you,
"I don't know if i'm generous but I really want to be a blessing to people."
You might be thinking, "What's the difference?" To be honest, I'm not exactly sure. When I think about generosity I think about someone sharing something they own. I can think of people who are generous with sharing the home, sharing their possessions, or sharing their money. But when I think about blessing, I think of someone who empowers someone else - they give them something more than a limited resource, they give away hope, they give away forgiveness, they give away love.
At this time in my life, I'm looking to be friends with people I watch be a blessing to other people. And I'm doing so because of interaction I had recently with a former donor. A few months ago I saw this former donor at an event. For the previous few years this person had paid the way for some other non-profit workers to participate in this more expensive event (The event was a blessing to these folks). I had noticed this year, these usual guests of his weren't in attendance, so I asked him if I should have invited them. His response was a very typical response, especially in Christian circles. He said this,
Not that anyone should expect anything in return when you give to someone else, but did you know in the last five years only two of those folks ever said thank you. So this year, I invited some other folks that felt like a better strategic move.
My immediate response was anger. Primarily I was angry at myself for not offering this blessing (Participating in the event) to these other folks who work in non-profit work just like me. Instead, I had left it up to someone else to be a blessing. But the more I encounter people who are considered generous for giving their money, I encounter people who fail to recognize their ability to bless verses their ability to give. And often those that are generous givers with something they possess are looking for something in return.
So I've set out challenging myself to be a person who offers blessing more than being a generous person. What's the litmus test between generosity and blessing? For me, I have to answer this question, "Am I freely sharing things I don't possess?" Here are some ways I'm trying to be a blessing -
1. Typing Happy Birthday - This is going to be make me sound like a horrible person but in the past when I got birthday notifications in Facebook, if I felt like the person hadn't made an effort to know me personally, I didn't tell them Happy Birthday on their Facebook page. Sounds kind of trivial right. However, I asked myself what's at the heart of this? The answer I found was I didn't want to be a blessing. Ultimately, I wanted to be blessed first so I was withholding blessing from someone else. Makes me feel pretty shallow to hold back taking five seconds to type, "Happy Birthday!" So for the past few weeks I've been abundant in "Happy Birthdays!"
2. Being the donor I would want - When it comes to giving a donation I am refusing myself the opportunity to ask, "Do you think they will use the money wisely? Are they really doing with this money what they say they would? Are they telling me thank you enough? Are they listening to what I want them to do?" For me, the desire to bless is the root of being generous. For the folks receiving a donation I don't want them to hear, "Invest this money wisely and make sure you say thank you because this is an investment for me." What I want them to hear is, "I believe in who you are way more than whatever it is you are doing, plus, I trust you." Is there the chance my trust will get broken. Absolutely. But would I rather tell someone I trust them than create an expectation I want them to live up to; absolutely. If I choose the second option than I start wanting them to become what I want instead of giving them space to become what God wants them to become.
3. Being an encourager - What do you want people to say about you at your funeral? I want people to say, "Brad ruthlessly believed in me." Or, I would want my kids to say, "Dad was generous with the phrases - I love you, I'm proud of you, and I know you can do it." If those things are said about me, than I've lived the life Jesus called me to live. And you might have a different bar for what a successful life looks like but working with high school kids for my entire career has taught me it's easy to spot the kids who have grown up with encouragement versus those who have not. These kids become adults and you can see it in their life, how they love their spouses, and how they love their kids if they were blessed with words in their life by the people they valued the most.
4. Raising people up - What I've learned about being a blessing professionally is that it looks like raising people up to equal authority as me. Or maybe a better way to say it is I'm lowering myself in my mind. This, to me, is the clearest sign you are a blessing to someone else - you give them equal status. When I think I have authority over someone else or if I hold on to knowledge or a gift I think is specifically mine, I'm attempt to grasp to a blessing instead of giving a blessing away.
What do you think I'm learning from this?
I'm learning that blessed people know how to be a blessing. These people are really fun to be around. I'm not sure who you want to live life with but I want to live life with people who love others really well and often what keeps us from loving people well is our own need to be blessed. The longer we go without blessing the tougher our hearts get, the more inward focused we become.
To receive blessing we often have to practice blessing.
Find someone today to bless, you won't regret it.