Most of us associate greed with wanting and generosity with giving. I just recently (and reluctantly) recognized the insidious coexistence of both in the concept of greedy giving. Since I could find no definition for what seemed at first to be an oxymoron, I created my own: Greedy Giving - Excessive wanting to give. I’m guilty!

For most of my life I mistook this “excessive wanting to give” as generosity.  I was raised to answer the call, any call: To please, to help, to serve and to fix. I loved this job. It came with much approval, many gold stars and a pending halo. Most people would say that to give with abandon is admirable. It certainly solved a lot of problems in the short run: Need a ride? Check. Need a pie? Check. Need a solution? Check. I was perched and ready with “Can-Do” Cape in hand to save the day. So what’s the problem?

The problem is this: When we over-function, we invite others to under-function. It’s that simple. For years I heard a common complaint in counseling sessions: “I have really great kids (friends, colleagues) but they’re not very helpful.” One day I blurted out the answer (more to myself than my unsuspecting client): Why would they be helpful when you push people out of the process of giving and sometimes even out of your way?! Bingo.

Once I was onto my greedy giving it became apparent that when it came to giving I had a much harder time holding back than rushing in. I had to retrain myself to give less and expect more. This turned my world, and identity as a generous person, upside down. As with any challenge, I called on humor and put my understanding of generosity back together. I acknowledged my style of giving as well-intended but misguided and vowed to correct it. I discovered five catch phrases that helped me share the giving:

The Cape: Take off the “Can-Do” Cape and STOP making it look so easy.

The Tiara: Put on the Drama Queen Tiara and INVITE people into problems & solutions.

The Hula Hoop: Stay in your Hula Hoop & LET natural consequences unfold.

The Cake: TAKE the Cake even if it’s not what you wanted or expected, store-bought or day-old.

The Ball: Don’t be a ball hog. Follow the elementary school rule and SHARE. Let everyone touch the ball.

These catch phrases and strategies serve as reminders that serial giving undermines the confidence and competence of those around us; over-doing is a clear vote of no confidence; and one of the most empowering things we can say to a loved one is, “You’ll figure it out.”

Once we recognize greedy giving for what it is, true generosity takes root. It becomes obvious that the most effective and generous way to empower is to invite others into the process of giving. When others experience the “Do-Good Feel Good” spiral that we greedy givers know so well, they get swooped up and recruited into a lifelong habit of giving. It’s not that we greedy givers shouldn’t live on the give but, instead, live on the give and take. Because it’s not only in giving that we receive but in receiving that we give. What we’ll inspire in others is any parent’s or leader’s dream: Contribution, connection, communication, compassion, confidence and competence. What better way to build character and community?

When we push people out of this process of giving, we rob them of the opportunity to step into their giving power and we interfere with a natural flow of give and take. We have no right to keep this secret or reserve the “Do Good-Feel Good” spiral for ourselves. To share the giving is my new and improved definition of generosity; one that I wholeheartedly embrace personally and professionally.

The next time you reach for that “Can-Do” Cape, stop and ask yourself this: Do I share the giving or am I a Greedy Gracie™ (or Greedy Greg)? More often than not, you’ll put the cape away for the occasional day in need of saving (typically matters of health or safety). Those around you will answer the call and eventually take their functioning up a notch. I guarantee it. Your children, friends and colleagues will stop relying on your “Can-Do” Cape and, instead, invest in one of their own.

“Like” Greedy Gracie on Face Book: www.facebook.com/greedygracie

 

 


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