Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back
The Chinese philosopher, poet and politician Confucius famously said “Give a bowl of rice to a man and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to grow his own rice and you will save his life.”
We give very little when we give people things but we give more when we give of ourselves. In a very materialistic world, it can be so easy to think we are generous because we give material gifts to our partner but it is important to know our partners did not marry things but they married you and treasure you.
The act of generosity is the virtue of being kind and generous to someone else, in the case of marriage, our partner. It is when we give freely without much expectation of reciprocation.
At the heart of the Christian faith is a God who gave the very best of himself to demonstrate his love rather than just bombarding us with material gifts to win our affection.
DISCUSS: What do you remember as an act of generosity that left an impression on you from your partner before you got married?
According to a study, most happy marriages are inundated with generosity. The study found that couples with high amounts of generosity reported high happiness levels in their marriage than those with low amounts of generosity.
Generosity is not something we learn in marriage, it is something we bring into our marriage relationship. It is a character trait that we have developed or not developed as we journey through life. However, generosity is something we can learn and it is worth learning it before we get into a marriage relationship.
Whilst no one goes out looking for a stingy or mean partner we can sometimes focus on one aspect of generosity, mainly material or financial generosity whilst forgetting to investigate whether our prospective partners are generous emotionally or spiritually. Are they generous with their affection and kindness or have those areas of their lives remained undeveloped?
The writer John in one of his epistles to the early followers of Jesus wrote, ‘What marvellous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we’re called children of God! That’s who we really are’….1 John 3:1
In their book the Paradox of Generosity the authors Davison and Smith found the emotionally generous individuals in their relationships had better health and happiness.
Jim Afremow wrote the book ‘The Champion’s Mind – How great athletes think, train and thrive’’. In the book he states “Attitude is a decision, and it is also a learned behaviour, requiring discipline and energy to sustain”.
This means when generosity of spirit, emotions, words and affection do not come easily it is because we haven’t learned that behaviour yet.
Meanness and being stingy does not enhance a relationship or create a thriving environment for a relationship to grow. In fact if we believe the narrative that we are made in God’s image we can clearly state that meanness is not a ‘God’ quality. It goes against God’s original mandate for our lives.
So how can we learn generosity?
The author John Holmes states, “There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up”.
The Christian bible states ‘God loves a cheerful giver’ 2 Corinthians. When we give cheerfully to others we just don’t delight the receiver of the gift, even God notices. So how can we learn to be generous especially in our marriage relationship?
1. Little acts: It is the little things that matter – a text that asks ‘how is your day going?’ A cup of tea or coffee given kindly, a little unexpected gift that reminds your partner they are important to you are all habits we can cultivate.
2. Kindly words: Choose your words carefully. The bible warns against having to give an account for every careless word spoken. The writer of proverbs states “Words satisfy the mind as much as fruit does the stomach; good talk is as gratifying as a good harvest.” Proverbs 18 It is so easy to become rude and disrespect each other whilst justifying it, but if that is the sum total of our words to our loved ones, we need to be careful.
3. Show affection: Nobody was born knowing how to drive a car, we learn how to. ‘I am not an affectionate person’ is a sentence that should be finished with ‘YET’. In marriage what makes our relationship with our partner unique is that we can be affectionate and intimate towards them.
4. Grace and forgiveness: We are all fallen beings. We say and do the wrong things and also don’t do what we promise. Living in an environment where your faults are constantly being highlighted can be soul destroying, that is why we need to cultivate grace and forgiveness generously. Forgiveness does not mean tolerating bad and dangerous behaviour but it also means not holding grudges so you can be free and fulfilled.