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The Marks of Genuine Generosity

by dollarwise
The Marks of Genuine Generosity

Let me tell you about my friend Steve. Steve is an incredibly generous person. Financially he’s given away a greater percentage of his income each year, every year. He gives without expecting anything in return, often in secret. You’d think Steve would be well off, nup! He’s a renter, without the cash to buy his own home. His generosity goes way beyond money too. He’s generous with his time and willingness to help, with his home and things. Steve is genuinely generous and happily so. How I wish I was as generous as him. In Steve I’ve learnt some of the marks of genuine generosity.

The Marks of Genuine Generosity

Without Reward or Recognition

There’s a false generosity that is generous for the sake of being seen. The sort of person who wants a building with their name plastered on the side. Or for the less well off, a brick! This is a generosity with strings attached. I’ll give as long as your recognize me, as long as you make much of me. I’m in it for what I can get out of it. It’s why many charities have to offer a prize for donations or some form of public recognition. But genuine generosity is being generous without acknowledgement. Generous without reward. The truly generous give when noone is looking and noone knows. There’s no strings attached, no sense of you owe me back.


Genuine generosity is by nature selfless. It’s taking what could be used for me and offering it to someone else. Taking my money, my time, my talents, my things and offering them to someone in need. It is selfless. It’s not done to get anything, but simply to give. It’s pleasure is in another’s pleasure and not one’s own. This is genuine generosity.

Sacrificial and Costly

Genuine generosity hurts. It’s costly and sacrificial. It means giving to the point that you feel it. Dropping your spare change in a tin is hardly generous. It may appease a gnawing conscience but it’s not generous. But when you really give there’s a cost, something you have to give up on or let go of.


This may seem strange. But people who look down on others are never genuinely generous. They may give a token to be seen, but will always keep the majority for themselves. They don’t feel genuine compassion for others but are rather happy to be ‘not like them’. ‘Surely those people should help themselves first,’ they might be heard to say. It’s the humble, it’s those who’ve often been themselves through difficulty that are the quickest to give. This is why in study after study, the poor give proportionately more than the rich. The Humble are genuinely generous, the proud are not.


Genuine generosity is always fostered from a heart of compassion. To be moved from the heart is to be generous in every way. There’s a reason charity’s show those images. They know without the heart, they will get change. But if the heart is in it, the wallet follows. Generous people are always compassionate people.

Why Be Generous?

You could just hoard everything for yourself? Why take what you could have and part with it? This is after all a blog about saving money and earning and investing it. Isn’t giving your money away mean your financial goals are further away? Won’t this add years until you can retire and lower your net worth? Why would you do this?

Well if life were only money, I guess you might not. Imagine meeting Steve, a genuinely generous person. Someone who is concerned about you and is quick to give you his time, money and friendship. Compare that to someone who is not generous, who is selfish and proud and concerned only for what they can get from you, not give to you. Who would you rather be around? Who would you rather be?

Genuinely generous people are generous to the core. It’s who they are. I want to be like Steve, I take it that you would want to be like him too. But if you’re not generous with your money, you probably won’t be with your friendship, time or anything else. It’s about the sort of person you want to be. Getting rich without being generous is not a path I want to walk. I hope you don’t either. So be careful in your pursuit of wealth, that you pursue it with generosity as well.

Wealthy and Generosity

Wealth and generosity can go hand in hand, but often they don’t. As noted, the wealthier you are the less likely you are to be generous. Sad, but true. Wealth can breed pride and superiority. The love of wealth can be all consuming and cause many to care little at all about others (apart from what you can get from them!). So commit yourself not only to gaining wealth, but to generosity as well. You can only give from what you’ve been able first to save. Living frugally and wisely saving your dollars frees you up to be generous.

Debt and Generosity

If the pursuit of wealth can destroy generosity, so too can debt. Debt is like a noose that controls you. How can I be generous with this huge debt to pay. Everything must go to the master who owns me. I know personally that when I’m free of debt in all it’s forms I’m incredibly more generous. And that includes house debt. Debt constricts generosity because you’re always a slave to your debtor.

How Do You Become More Generous?

The million dollar question. I think that those who are most generous are those who have experienced generosity themselves. This I suspect is why the poor give more proportionately than the rich. They know what it means to be in need and have experienced the benefits of the genuine generosity of others. There’s compassion and understanding, a humility that comes from having been there. The rich often have no such experience to draw on. Recently we were given a large bag of clothing for our kids. Could I now go and sell those clothes? Of course not, I’m going to pass on what we can when the kids outgrow them. I’ll pass on the generosity that was passed onto me. So then Generosity is a mixture of humility, compassion, understanding, experience and means. In light of that here’s a few suggestions to grow you in generosity.

Remember Your Own Poverty

You know how much say you had in being born in a relatively rich country, compared to a poor one? None. We all enter the world the same way, we all start with nothing. If you have something, it’s 90% pure chance. So don’t look down on those who have nothing. Remember there’s nothing different between you and the most impoverished of peoples. When you realize that, you not only have no reason to look down on others, but you have an obligation. Have you noticed how emigrants from poorer countries are always sending money home. Their privilege is for sharing with all. So too is yours. Living in some of the richest countries in the world is a privilege to be shared, not hoarded.

Experience Generosity Instead Of Rejecting It

There’s a false humility that rejects the help and generosity of others. Oh no, I don’t need that. Don’t! You’re taking away the opportunity to experience genuine generosity. It’s also just plain prideful. Who cares if it’s not needed or deserved. This is the very experience that will draw out generosity in you. As I said, you pass on what you receive. Receive first and you’ll gladly give.

Grow Your Faith

Being religious doesn’t make you more generous in and of itself. But if you believe that your God gave up everything for you, even life itself. If this was done to give you everything, that’s genuine generosity. To believe and experience that will make you more generous, just as you receive generosity from others, you can receive it from God too. That’s what faith is. Faith, rightly understood, fosters humility, sacrifice and compassion, the ingredients of genuine generosity. Grow your faith and it will flow over into generosity.

Discover By Doing

‘It’s more blessed to give than to receive’, is true. The only way to know it’s true is to give it a go. Give, give generously, sacrificially, humbly, compassionately, without any need for acclamation or repayment. Do it and experience the joy of it. It might just be a bit addictive. You’ll be a better person for it. And like Steve, you’ll be friend worth knowing and being like.

Do you have any more suggestions? Please let me know and if you liked this post, please share it!

The Marks of Genuine Generosity


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Mrs. ETT October 22, 2016 - 9:12 am

Great post, and beautifully worded. It is something that everyone trying to build wealth should have in the back of their minds. I know I’ve read in multiple blogs that people should have 3 buckets designated for their money – save, spend and give. I think it is important, however, that people define generosity for themselves, and there is no shame or judgement. As you said about Steve, it might not always be about giving away money, it could be time or service; for the genuinely generous, others may not even know it is occurring.

dollarwise October 29, 2016 - 10:40 am

Thanks Mrs. ETT. I agree, no place for guilt. Guilt never motivates anyway, not for long. Nor is there any joy in that sort of giving. It has to be free, joyful and willing. That’s what makes generosity so great, both for the giver and receiver. And yes, generosity takes many forms and a generous person will give in all sorts of ways.

jay October 28, 2016 - 12:32 pm

Thanks Luke for this timely post. It reminds of an old friend whom I caught up with recently.

This friend is a stay-at-home mum with two small humans and she has been making some money on the side with forex trading for a few years. When I caught up with her I asked how the trading has been going. To my surprise she said that she decided to stop doing it because she found it ‘all consuming’ and that it was affecting her relationships with others. This was despite her intentions to use that money for good.

I found this very humbling and it made me reflect how I can keep myself from the love of money while still wanting and planning to retire early so I can give more of my time away. One way I do this is give thousands of dollars away each year, but it’s probably nothing in the likes of Steve’s generosity, as I just co-signed a contract to buy a unit.

Your comments on debt are very interesting. Are you suggesting that I should stop being generous until I pay off my home loan?

dollarwise October 29, 2016 - 10:37 am

Jay, your friends experience is pretty normal. Day trading is addictive, a bit like gambling and can become all consuming as you have to watch it because money is on the line. It does impact other relationships and in my opinion isn’t worth it. You are better off doing research, buying good stocks, commit to holding for the medium to long term and sleep well.
Glad to hear that you are giving thousands away. It’s good to give. Often we look at the amount given, rather than the amount kept. If you give 10%, remember you’re keeping 90!
On the debt front, I’m definitely not saying don’t give until your house is paid off. It’s just true that any debt, even house debt hangs on you. I’ve known the difference between having a house debt and not, and found it easier to be generous without it. Debt calls for your attention and so mentally can make it harder to give when you know you need to pay this thing off. If you can turn that off great. Just my experience.
Thanks the comment Jay, keep up the generosity,

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