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04.20.2015 Sharon Spano, Ph.D.

Does Comfort Choke a Generous Heart?

I’m a woman who enjoys her comforts. Not something I’m proud of, but it’s true.

A few weeks ago, we hosted a JOG retreat at our home. JOG stands for Journey of Generosity. It’s a very cool event where 10-15 people come together to explore what it means to live from a place of radical generosity.

The key word is radical. Not an easy conversation if you’re one who enjoys comforts.

I work hard, and I’ve certainly had my share of bad Holiday Inn experiences. So, it’s not like I need to live the life of the Super Rich and Famous.

Still, there are things—comforts that I’m not eager to give up.

Where Your Treasure Is ... There, Your Heart Is Also

So I’m sitting in my own family room surrounded by my stuff when our JOG facilitator pops in the video. It’s my second time around with this video series, so I’m thinking, I’m good.

Then, that darned Tim Keller starts talking about his love and/or addiction to books.

Ouch.

Okay, can I just say that when Barnes and Noble first opened a million years ago, I was there. Every week. Some moms take their kids to the park. Michael and I would hang out at B&N. Inevitably, I’d come home with an empty checkbook and a handful of books.

It wasn’t until my husband asked a gentle question one evening that I realized maybe this was getting a bit out of hand.

“Who’re these Barnes and Noble guys you’re seeing every week?”

Uhhhhh . . .

Guess he thought I was in some kind of secret therapy—and in fact, it probably would’ve been a good idea. Today, I’ve graduated to a full blown love affair with Amazon. One click, and it’s all there before me. I love skimming through my iPad. It’s like having my own private Carnegie library.

Does this mean, then, that my heart resides in books? My car? Too many shoes?

Do I Own My Stuff or Does My Stuff Own Me?

Let me quickly add that the nonprofit Generous Giving who offers up the JOG experience in no way states that you have to give up anything in order to give. Generosity is strictly a conversation between you and God.

Yeah, well, let me add that God wasn’t exactly whispering to me a few weeks ago. What I learned very quickly (or, shall I say after the second time around) was that, yes, I am a woman who enjoys her comforts.

“No, Sharon, it’s not about books, or shoes, or even cars,” God shouts. “It’s about me.”

I always know it’s God tugging at my heart because my mind starts scrambling to rationalize my behavior.

Can I just quickly explain, God, that my car fetish isn’t really a bad thing. I don’t really care what brand the car is. It’s not a prestige issue for me. But, there is this part of me that loves a performance car. I like the way it handles, the roar of the engine, the fact that I feel safer and able to go from zero to sixty —okay, maybe eighty —whenever I want. If someone would put an AMG engine on a rickshaw, I’d probably drive that and be good.

And, I don’t really buy that many shoes anymore. In fact, I’m pretty proud of the fact that Stuart Weitzman tempts me via the internet on a daily basis—and I’ve only ordered one pair in the last six months.

Do I get credit or stars for avoiding those temptations?

Yes. Okay. I see your point. This website is my eye candy. After all, I haven’t blocked those ads from coming in now, have I? It’s like I’m addicted to shoe porn or something. I get it.

The books? Now, I know the books are good because you don’t want me to grow dumber, now, do you?

So it goes. My monkey mind rambling on and on. It’s me and God in this ongoing battle about my own egocentric desires vs. what and where he’d have me contribute more.

The video continues to roll, and I somewhere along the line, I do finally get it. It’s really not about the books, the car, the shoes.

It’s okay to own them as long as they don’t own me!

Is Giving Good Without Sacrifice?

I haven’t exactly worked all this out yet. If you catch a glimpse of my peddling down the road in a rickshaw—minus the AMG engine—you’ll know I’ve landed. Until then, I’m taking baby steps based on what I currently know.

Yes, I can let go of some of the vanity candy. Yes, I can sacrifice more.

Or, I can create more so that I can give more.

One of the key principles that Randy Alcorn offers in The Treasure Principle is that “God prospers me not to raise my standard of living, but to raise my standard of giving.”

I love this idea. Isn’t this after all what The Giving Pledge that Buffett and Gates and a host of other philanthropists have decided to do?

Scarcity doesn’t generate abundance. Abundance does. If I want to give more, I have to create more.

Bottom line is this: I can choose to sacrifice and live an ascetic life. I thought about it once when I was a young Catholic school girl surrounded by nuns. Truth is, I didn’t like the clothes, the shoes even less.

Shallow? No doubt.

Or, maybe God just had other plans for me.

Sacrifice is Good but an Abundant Mindset is Better

I think I’m coming to the point of understanding that I don’t necessarily have to sacrifice everything to give. My husband and I both have generous spirits. We do whatever we can whenever we can whether we have it or not.

But, at the end of the day, the law of attractions dictates that when I create money, I can equally create balance in what I earn, what I spend, and what I contribute.

Generosity, then, comes from being a good steward of resources. Oddly enough, my research on time and money is indicating just this. People who operate from abundant perspectives, don’t necessary shave their heads and live an ascetic life. Rather, they work hard, earn, create, invest—all so that they can contribute more.

Yes, I’m being called to rethink my comforts and my spending, but one thing I know for sure. God has blessed me with a generous spirit. Sometimes it’s about money. Sometimes it’s about time. Sometimes it’s about listening when I’d rather talk.

I don’t do it perfectly. Generosity, I find, is a process of discernment. I’m still working on it.

If you’d like to know more about your own propensity for scarcity vs. abundance, I invite you to take The Money Meter Assessment. It’s fun. It’s interesting, and I think you’ll enjoy learning a bit more about your experience of time and money.

Published by Sharon Spano, Ph.D. April 20, 2015