Self-Centered Generosity

Is there another term for self-centered generosity? I would define this as giving for the sole purpose of fulfilling a narrative in your mind with no concern for the wants and needs of the recipient.

Imagine someone who gifts golf balls, golf clubs, golf shoes, etc to someone who doesn’t play golf or to someone who loathes golf—would we still consider this generous? What of someone who buys ground beef every week for a vegetarian, or mushrooms for someone who is allergic? (It must be noted that in the case I’m describing these things are done out out self-centered lack of concern not out of ignorance. In fact, the gifter is reminded each time that the gifts are unwanted.) Could this person still be reasonably seen as generous or are we dealing with what I can only describe as a pathological form of narcissism masked under the guise of charity?

Giving—true giving—comes from a place of empathy. “When we went to lunch last month you mentioned that you had no nice winter coats, so I bought you a nice winter coat to keep you warm.” Giving is not a two step process of acquiring and presenting, it also requires the determination if actual need exists as well as whether the person will accept the gift. These assessment may be wrong in an act of true giving but at least they are first considered. Whereas giving without the consideration of these two actually denotes a blatant lack of respect for the proposed recipient. It is a form of condescension. The recipient is a prop in an internal drama, the drama of “look at me, I’m so generous.”

Another aspect of true giving is accepting that the gift may be rejected. We give with hope. If the reaction to a decline is anger and condemnations of ingratitude, then the internal drama become more apparent. “How dare you interfere with the story I was creating to feel good about myself. You should feel lucky that I chose to include you in my story.” This sort of giving is not giving, it is an act of self-satisfaction for the gifter. It is masturbation.

Is generosity the shallow act of giving or instead, is it an active expression of thoughtful compassion?

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By C.A. Hall

Writer / Podcaster I'm a well-written sentence marred by a curse word. In another life I might have been a criminal profiler, a jazz drummer, an architect, an acrobat, an actor, or a children’s book illustrator.