Real and Relative Generosity
One man heard of the plight of another while he was sitting among friends. He immediately felt moved, and handed out a sum of money to be given to the distressed one.
Another, who had not heard of any special case, went out when he had some money and looked for someone who was in need. He asked him about his needs, and fulfilled them.
Which of these was the really generous man?
The answer is – neither.
Both were generous within conventional limits. They were doing what they had been taught to do.
These forms of generosity are sufficient only at the very beginnings of generosity.
Beyond this is the stage for which these other forms are supposed to be the preparation.
Because people rarely rise above the preliminary stages, these shallow forms of generosity are assumed to be the height of generosity.
The real generosity is when a man does something generous when nobody knows about it; or when, other people knowing something about it, he refuses to gain any credit for his generosity, from the recipient or anyone else.
Real generosity is anonymous to the extent that a man should be prepared even to be considered ungenerous rather than explain it to others.
This kind of generosity, in goods, in work and in thought, is deliberately cultivated in the ranks of the Elect, and is practised by those who wish to enter their ranks, with no exceptions at all, and there is no relaxation of this exercise.
Generosity is also marked by doing what one says one will do. Saadi teaches: ‘when the generous promise, they perform’.
Not to be greedy is, paradoxically, the highest form of looking after one’s true interests.
Greed harms you: generosity helps you.
This is why it has been said: ‘Greed is the mother of incapacity’.
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