The opposite of Generosity

opposite of generosity

Studying opposites

When it comes to just about any serious area of research, you'll often find that one of the ways we study and learn things is to study opposites.

For example, to learn about the way a healthy brain works, scientists spent years studying brains that were injured and didn't work.

In the hard sciences, that may be a good way to learn something, but in most of life, we're not as clear about what the opposites really are.

Marcus Buckingham, for example, states that the opposite of bad marriages isn't good marriages but simply not bad marriages. And we all know that a marriage that isn't bad doesn't make it incredibly good.

So opposites can sometimes be tricky. I'll come back to that in a second.

Daily blogging – why?

Over the past 14 months I've been writing daily. Trying to focus on business topics, presentation topics, WordPress topics and product development topics – all with the goal of trying to add a little insight, information or encouragement for the work you're doing.

In that time, traffic here has jumped way up – far beyond any reasonable expectation of mine. (If you like blogging and want some help, take the class I did with Chris Brogan.)

But with that traffic and influence, I often get the question, “Why?” as in, what's my end game. So finally decided to tell you the hidden reason for developing this audience and traffic. It's all been building to this point.


Because I wanted to share with you some insights into generosity. It's something I'm really passionate about and I have been waiting until the right moment. And it's now.

My end game is to share with you some personal insights to help you become more generous (at work, in life, with friends and family).

What? You didn't really think I was going to try to sell you on something, did you? Except maybe my ideas.

So for the rest of this month, I hope to share with you some ideas, some insights, some information and some inspiration that I hope will help you think about next year in the right context.

The opposite of generosity

With that, let's dig into the opposite of generosity.

I know, you think it's selfishness, don't you? But it's not. At least not to me. Because selfishness shows the same characteristics as generosity – a proactive caring and intentional act for someone. The only difference between selfishness and generosity is the audience. That doesn't make it an opposite.

No, I think the opposite of generosity is disinterest.

Think about it for a second. See if I'm right.

I studied at the University of California in Berkeley. We call it Cal. I wasn't a great student. But I did learn a ton – mostly outside of the classroom.

One of the things I learned, in a city known for its homelessness, is that the more we're exposed to need the easier it is to get “need fatigue” and eventually we move into a place of disinterest.

A homeless man walks up asking for change and we just keep moving. We don't stop. We don't even think about it much. We just keep moving. Because we don't care. At that moment we're not thinking about ourselves in a selfish way (“I need that dime; I need to keep it”). It's not selfishness, it's disinterest. I've seen it, and I've lived it.

We are already rich.

I know our initial inclination is to fight what I'm saying and suggest that we just don't have a lot. We don't have enough to be generous. That if we were rich we'd give more. But here's the thing – we are already rich.

Yup, I spent 14 months building an audience so that I could offend you. Sorry. But not really.

If you have more than a single pair of shoes, or if you live off of more than two dollars a day, guess what my friends? Without judgement, I'm telling you that we're all rich.

We just don't always feel rich. And I get that. Bills come in. We have to choose which one we'll pay. We don't have excess capacity to think about anyone else. So we focus on just making it.

But when you shift your perspective a bit, you discover the first thing about generosity that I want to share with you. It's not about money. It never has been and it never will be.

It's about interest.

It's about interest. Beyond your own situation.

That person who's struggling worse than you, or just like you – you know what they need? Your money may or may not help, but your heart will.

So today, for just a day, would you take a moment to spend a few minutes with someone and engage them in a seriously interested way? See if you don't end up feeling great! And see if that person doesn't come away thinking you were mighty generous!

And if you liked this post, would you do me one more favor – one that I'll likely ask you every day for the rest of the month. Would you share it?