Can You Be Too Generous? I Don’t Think So

Do you judge yourself as too generous? I think this can make a person who  already feels unappreciated feel even worse. I’d rather celebrate my generosity and then I feel appreciated!

I recently had a dream that an old friend, who lives far away, was visiting us in Rochester. For the first day she was visibly distressed and antsy. She was juggling two small babies so Ted and I pitched right in remembering what it was like to long for extra hands.  We offered her space to be comfortable, talk, and have a break, trying to anticipate what she needed.

prayer of st francis
Click image for more on St Francis

She barely slept the first night.  The next morning she pulled me into a corner to talk.  I was ready to open my heart to whatever was distressing her. I did not expect what she said next.

She was worried about me.  She said that she saw me sacrificing and trying to please people.  She worried that I was not taking care of myself. I smiled at her lovingly, touched by the love implicit in her words.

I said, You can give and be a victim of it, and you can give and not be a victim of it. I am not a victim of it. Whatever I do for someone else, I know I do it for me and if I do for me, I do for someone else. So neither has value over the other. 

Can you be too generous? There is no difference

I do for myself just as readily as I do for others. And sometimes I exercise my limits and say no. To both. So how can I be too generous?

I believe in people so much and I know what they feel is temporary and will pass. Believing in them is much more helpful for them than getting myself in a tizzy when they are upset.  Also, I somehow understand that I will have infinite opportunity to contribute. If not this moment, there will be another. And each of the moments have equal value.

But I also keep in mind that challenges allow people growth.  I wouldn’t want to take away someone’s opportunity by jumping in there and doing the work for them, just like I would never do my kids homework for them. Plus modeling boundaries helps teach other to have boundaries.

If I am not free in a particular moment, I can always at least send them a quick intention for peace. 

Can’t be too generous with peace

On the other hand, I’m not perfect. I may say no to myself more often than I want and decide to adjust.

If I say no to others too much, I check myself then, too.

I think of a story that made quite an impression on me. I heard it so long ago that I cannot remember where. I couldn’t find the story, nor anyone who ever heard of it, so I will do my best to represent it as I remember it.

Edited: Bonnie from Rochester told me this is a version of the book, Martin the Cobbler,  by Leo Tolstoy. Thanks Bonnie!

A woman had a dream where Jesus said that he would visit her that very day. When she woke, she began to prepare the house overjoyed at the prospect of Christ’s visit. About mid morning her doorbell rang. She ran to the door, but it was a traveler passing through looking for a rest and a drink. The woman gave him a quick rest and a drink and shooed him back on his journey so that she would be available for Jesus when he came.

Around noon, her doorbell rang again and she ran to answer it. When she opened the door, her eyes fell on a worn and tattered beggar. He asked if she had any food to spare. And quickly she packed him up a lunch to go, and sent him on his way, hoping she’d be free for Jesus when he came.

You never know

In the afternoon, the doorbell rang again. Finally! She thought. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door with a welcoming smile. But behind the door, she found an old man who had lost his way. After she settled the man in a chair, she called the police to help him safely find his way home to his family, so that she might be available for her special visitor.

She waited and waited all evening, when finally, full of disappointment, she went off to bed.

Again, she dreamed of Jesus. She asked, Why did you not visit me? 

Jesus answered, I came three times to your home today. I was the traveler, the beggar and the old man. 

Too generous indeed

I have more than 80 people I meet with, exchange emails with, text and phone in any given week. Aside from about 20 “regulars”, it is a NEW 80 the next week. For each of them, this is their big reach out against the problem. A huge step for them to ask for help. They don’t see themselves as one of 80. They are one. If I treat them as 1 of 80, they will be crushed. If I think of each one of them as Spirit showing up as my guest, then I see each one as a invitation to what Spirit wants me to attend to today.

When I ignored them and said, I don’t have time to be with you, I am busy writing a book to save the world, aren’t I just like the woman in the story?

I don’t have time for you Jesus, I am waiting for the real Jesus.

There is no *real* Jesus in this sense.  We are all Jesus.

Giving can be healing

At a workshop a few weeks ago, the teacher said that you cannot give advice if you are “not clean”.  I didn’t agree.  Sometimes this is the case.  If person 1 is wrapped so much in his own story, they may not be present for person 2’s story. The advice person 1 gives is probably more for themselves than for person 2.

It is also possible though, that when we reach out and join with others, we heal us both.  When we heal ourselves, we heal others and when we heal others, we heal ourselves.

My turtle healer

One day many years ago, while on a retreat, I was having a horrible day. The haunts of my teenage years were coming up and out of me. Later I would appreciate it as a great healing experience to unload those negative emotions that were stuck in me for so long, but in the moment it felt overwhelming. I felt alone and devastated by my grief.

After the morning session, I was making a beeline for the parking lot and the sanctuary of my car, where I could re-gain control by literally driving away.

Just get me out of here.

I couldn’t walk fast enough. And started to run.

Not 20 feet from my car I found a tiny turtle. I stopped in my tracks and bent down to have a look. She looked dried and I thought she was dead until I noticed a small movement. I picked her up and noticed a huge (relative to the turtle) piece of gravel in her eye. Plucking it out and pouring a bit of water from my bottle on her in my palm, I began to see more signs of life. I carried her up the lunch room and put her in a bowl of water, where she actually became lively.

This is her.

My troubles forgotten.

Twelve hours of tears ended abruptly. I was 100% me again. There was nothing I had to figure out, there was nothing for me to do, the pain was gone, my heart no longer constricted.

In loving the turtle, I felt connected, purposeful, and distracted. I got out of the stories in my head about me messing up and being invisible, as I took action in saving the turtle.*

*Yes, we let her go back into the stream, and she swam away happily.

I told some other retreatants and one of them caringly told me, “Soon you will heal for yourself instead of the turtle.” I smiled and thanked her.

She was giving me her love, but her message was for her not me.

I am the turtle. The turtle is me. We are not separate. How can I be too generous when there is oneness.

I absolutely healed for me and I was free.

Turtle prayer by Travis Bowman
by Travis Bowman

Shared by Jen Dietrich and Steve Aman


How do you regulate your generosity?

27 thoughts on “Can You Be Too Generous? I Don’t Think So”

  1. Hi Jodi!

    Excellent blog on generosity… I often feel confused when I battle between being feeling like a giver and a victim at the same time. Thank you for clarity.

    The story about the woman waiting for Jesus is actually a version of the book, Martin the Cobbler, written by Leo Tolstoy. I do volunteer work in a prison and we have a DVD of the book that we show and discuss. It’s one of my favorite ways to spend time in a prison! I never get tired of it. And, it’s done in old school “clay-mation” which makes it even better. 🙂

    Have a wonderful day!

    1. Thanks so much Louise for sharing it on your blog, such an honor to be included in your work. I think our souls are aligned and have thought so for a very long time! xo

  2. Tina Fariss Barbour

    Beautiful, Jodi! I love what you say about healing ourselves and our interconnectedness. I agree that we can be generous with ourselves and others. I think if we start resenting being generous, it’s time to step back and make sure we are not forgetting to be good to ourselves too.

  3. I am a giver, but not so much that I feel walked upon or taken advantage of. There’s a time and place for giving. For me, it has to come from the heart and not be forced. But when it does, it feels good all over and I am grateful for the experience of it. There are times I need alone time. To write or do whatever, those are the times I am more selfish of myself, burrowing inside my house, blissfully isolated in my world of the written word. I think in a way even then I’m being generous, but only to myself.
    monicastangledweb recently posted..Black History Month: In the Presence of GreatnessMy Profile

  4. “Do you judge yourself as too generous?” I don’t remember ever feeling this, but usually find others too generous.
    I don’t like to do things because I have to. I like it to be a choice and if I choose to do it, it’s because it gives me as much good as it does to the receiver.

    They used to tell us, treat others the way you like to be treated. It’s true, but can cause a lot of harm too because it makes you have expectations. I try to never have expectations. anything nice would be a good surprise and anything bad not a big disappointment.

          1. that I don’t consider myself worthy enough?… yes
            I hate to reach the point where i need to ask for help. i hate being vulnerable

            1. The story that you are bad for asking for help and that asking for help makes you vulnerable are just beliefs. They are not true. Ask for help from an empowered standpoint instead of a victim standpoint. From here, you are not vulnerable and will not judge yourself.

  5. Thanks for such a great blog Jodi. I am a couple behind and what was I thinking :).. Love the Turtle prayer shared by Jen D. thx and hello Jen. I always have enjoyed the amazing stories that hold proof that we all as a whole make up this beautiful bright shinning light in the universe. So many times its an experience with another living piece of the whole that lifts our spirit and pulls us closer to god. It doesn’t seem to matter if its a person, reptile, or any other living thing in nature. The affect is always the same for all souls involved. Im so very grateful every time I hear those stories or live out the experience and grow. Thanks again Jodi and stay warm All….

  6. Hi Jodi,

    Lovely article indeed 🙂

    I think there is just no end to being generous, and the more you give, the more you receive, which is a fact. I have seen my Mom do a lot of giving, and I remember when I was a child and it was a cold winter evening. While driving down, we stopped over and my Mom saw a beggar shivering in the cold nearby. It didn’t take her a second to remove her shawl and give it to him…something many of us have second thoughts about before doing. Loved the turtle story too 🙂

    Thanks for sharing. Have a nice week ahead 🙂

    1. I get so much by giving, and LEARN so much. I think I pass opportunities sometimes, but see them when others don’t sometimes. It all balances out, I hope. I just try to keep my eyes open. You have a good week, too!

  7. Hi Jodi

    What a great post. We could probably all learn about being more generous. Although I see people being pressured into giving and I believe if it is not from the heart, it is not a gift at all.

    There are so many ways we can give. It is so easy to give money and then forget about it, which I wonder if folks only do it to get others out of their face and try not to feel guilty. When giving is with passion, then it heals us. Also a gift not wanted has to be graciously accepted by the giver. Some do not want our help.


    1. That is an excellent point, that when we impose our gifts, we are not really giving. If we do that, we are giving for ourself and not the other person.

  8. I think it’s important to always try to be generous. Sometimes I wish I was more and other times less. But mostly more. I love the analogies in the stories. Thanks Jodi for the inspiration you provide!

  9. Great blog as usual & so honest too. I don’t think of myself as being too generous, but I definately put others before myself. I just want to help people. One thing that I just don’t understand. I love the turtle story, but I don’t understand how all that pain & grief was gone in an instant. It could have been anything, not just a turtle. How is it possible for years of pain to vanish in an instant? I’m not doubting you, it’s just the thought of that happening is so…far fetched. I can’t even conceive of it. I’ve spent 8 years now, 2x a week, trying to lessen pain that contributes to who I am, everything I do, its there when I have to make a decision, it was there when I raised my children, it here now learning with me that my 20 yr marriage has been one big lie. I don’t want to embrace it, I just want it to go away.

    1. Thank you, Mary. It was gone in an instant because it no longer mattered. It was painful when it mattered and I was a victim of it. When it no longer mattered it went away. This is something we have to do. Believe that the past and abuse by others doesn’t have to define us. Once you believe that, the effects of it will lessen. You see? The pain may come back again, but then you just practice and remind yourself again without judging. Expect it to come back over and over and keep practicing without judgment.
      Hope that helps!

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