I’d like to be the kind of person that gives without conditions, expectations, or ultimatums. I understand that the desire to give and the desire to receive are something of a package deal, but sometimes I find myself giving only in the hopes that I will get a return. I don’t really think that’s giving. I think that’s “generous” manipulating. Now I’m realizing how sexual this probably reads. That’s not really what I meant, but hell, I guess it’s applicable.

If you watch Parks and Rec, think back to when April and Andy were first getting together. If you don’t watch Parks and Rec, get outta my lyfe. At the Harvest Festival, April tells Andy that she loves him, and his response? “Awesome sauce.” Or something like that. April is upset, as anyone in the world would be, because baring your soul to someone without favorable reciprocation sucks. Everyone knows that, and that knowledge festers a fear that keeps most of us from being transparent, genuine, honest people.

So much of the giving we do is contingent upon whether or not we will see a return. Because a lot of us only open up when we know that the other person will too. Because many of us don’t want to give unless it’s tax deductible. Because we can’t serve without Instagramming the experience so that everyone can see how generous we are. Because sometimes we help friends only because we know they will feel morally obligated to help us when we need it. Is that you? I know it’s me. I know that as humans, we have generous hearts. We have hearts that want to give, and we often succeed in that giving. But we also have fearful minds. And desperate egos.

So how do we get past that? How do we fearlessly share? How do we boldly give? How do we selflessly serve? In my experience, I’ve found that I am most genuinely generous with my heart, my time, my talents, and my money when I a) ignore the voice in my head that says I have to have the power in the situation and b) remember that I am dearly loved, protected, and blessed.

The Principle of Least Interest tells us that the power belongs to the one who cares less. This is what holds us back. This is what tells us that we have to play hard to get. This is what stops us from giving freely, lest we lose the upper hand. If I tell you I love you, even though I do, I am throwing the ball into your court. You may very well take that ball and chuck it at my face, so maybe I’ll just keep that to myself. If I give you my heart, what if you break it? If I give you my time, what if you waste it? If I give you my money, what if I don’t have enough anymore? Giving makes us vulnerable, and most of us don’t like to be vulnerable because vulnerable is awkward. But awkward is genuine.

Even as a “fatherless child,” I never hurt for attention. I was deeply loved and cared for, and I still am. So my deep, ridiculous need for love and attention is alarming because I know there are so many people roaming this Earth that have never been loved as well as I have. I can only imagine the fear that genuine generosity stirs in those who were never shown affection or protection. To give is to risk, and to risk is terrifying when you haven’t been given much. It’s pretty terrifying even when you have been given much. So many of us just don’t. Consider the hurt that breeds from selfishness and lack of generosity. Hurt people hurt people, as Mama always says. I can’t tell you I love you first because if you don’t say it back, I will feel unloved. I can’t give you my money because times are hard and I have to protect myself because I don’t feel secure. I can’t help you because I need help. It always comes back to me. And even when I push past those fears and give, it still sometimes comes back to me. But when I trust that I am loved, I am protected, I am valued, I am blessed, I can give without fear.

Genuine generosity is a matter of laying down our pride, picking up our value, and knowing that we have love and time and money and talents to spare. I don’t know how you find that value. I find it in Jesus, and in the way Mama believes in me, and in the way my friends laugh at my jokes. But you have to find it. Because I’ll bet your worth is more than you need. Share it sincerely.

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