The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose

by Christian Smith, Hilary Davidson. Oxford University Press, 2014.
Large the paradox of generosity

Mr. Rogers (yes, Mr. Rogers of that particular neighborhood) had a saying. It went, “The more love you give away…the more love you have to give away.” That simple, yet wise saying could be an epigraph for this book by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson, emerging from work of the Science of Generosity Initiative housed at the University of Notre Dame. The authors note at the beginning of chapter 1, “Rather than generosity producing net losses, in general the more generously people give of themselves, the more of many goods they receive in turn.” The goods include positive mental outlook, more energy, more resources and positive relationships. The authors also make more nuanced arguments based on data they have collected. For instance, generosity can’t be faked. It either exists in practice or it doesn’t. This book is an excellent resource for those who are interested in behavior change. It will challenge you and those you share it with to extend practices of generosity. It might also change the way your congregation approaches everything from the annual fund drive, to local mission, to the liturgy at funerals of generous of people.