Gayle Hardie, a Senior Member of the EIBN, wrote the following Insight about generosity of spirit:
Generosity of spirit is the openness and willingness to share our “gifts” freely with others.
This sharing is done joyously and willingly, is generated through respect and compassion, involves experiencing and celebrating what is important to the other person, and comes without wanting anything in return.
In sharing, we generate abundance and increase prosperity for all. We can make a difference, transform situations, generate creative and innovative solutions, lead by example, strengthen our own and other’s responsibility, share our wisdom and knowledge for everyone’s benefit, foster peace and harmony, explore and build connecting threads where there were none and celebrate all that becomes possible as a result.
When we are “generous in spirit,” we receive more than we ever imagined and understand that whatever we have given comes back to us in ways we may never have expected.
I have written the following blog to, hopefully, illuminate what this really means for individuals of each Enneagram style. This is actually a nuanced topic for one primary reason. We may do a generous act, think a generous thought, or feel a generous emotion, but are these necessarily “generosity of spirit?” For me, spirit generosity is much deeper and expansive that generosity that stems from the gut, the heart, or the head. “Spirit” involves all three Centers of Intelligence, plus more. In addition, we may do a generous act, but not be coming from a place of true generosity. The same can be said for a seemingly generous thought or feeling. How do we know if these stem from true “generosity of spirit” and not from either the ego and/or from a distorted interpretation of one’s inner motivation?
Because the writers of the Monthly Insight – Gayle in this case – are given free reign about what they write, I have committed, from my end, to link this to the Enneagram. Gayle’s Monthly Insights are always wonderful challenges, and this one may be the most challenging of all. The way in which I decided to approach this is to write about ego-based generosity – this can be thought of as a confusion between ego-based generosity and true generosity – and what we can each do about it if we want to!
Ego-based generosity: Ones give to others in a variety of ways: they correct us in a way to help us improve or make something go better; they work long hours to make up for the work we haven’t done on time or correctly; they make themselves as impeccable or faultless as possible so that they can be excellent role models for the rest of us to emulate. Oh yes, they often give perfect gifts, write us the perfect poem, and even send handwritten thank-you notes (well, not all Ones do this). But this is ego-based generosity: to get it right, to do it perfectly, to be well-mannered, and to make no mistakes.
To engage true “generosity of spirit:” How to do this is really very simple, and many Ones adore pure simplicity: “generosity of spirit” comes deep from within as acceptance of all that is, as it is. This includes others, work, and especially you. If you can’t extend “generosity of spirit” to yourself, it will be very difficult to also extend that to others. Remember that ego-based generosity might be rationalized as generosity, but the ego-based ways in which your ennea-type One does this puts you in a superior position to others, can cause other people to feel criticized by you, and even engenders resentment in you when others do not meet your expectations. “Generosity of spirit” and resentment rarely go together.
Ego-based generosity: Who is more generous than the Two? And who has more difficulty determining whether they are coming from a true “generosity of spirit,” or an ego-based “giving to get.” Some Twos don’t even think about this, assuming they are always “giving to give,” which is the voice of the ego, not the voice of reality. Twos give in a variety of ways, but almost all of it involves their focusing on us, not them: they give other devoted attention, smile warmly, and give advice; they stop their work or activities to take care of our needs, even if we haven’t asked them to do so; they offer us money, food, shelter, even when they may not have enough themselves; they give us unsolicited presents, appreciation, and kind words, most of all when we haven’t even said we need this. All of the above may seem generous and while it may be useful and helpful (and sometimes not), is it really coming from true “generosity of spirit?” When is it “giving to give” and when “giving to get?”
To engage true “generosity of spirit:” How to do this is simple, but not easy and it is profound. First, Twos have to acknowledge that they do “give to get,” even when they may be telling themselves that this is not the case. Each time the Two is about to do something for another person, he or she needs to stop and ask this question: What am I wanting in exchange for this “thing” I am about to do? What is important is to go many levels down in answering this question. For example, if the answer is “I want this person to be happy,” or “I don’t want this person to suffer,” Twos need to ask themselves what makes this matter to them and so forth until they get to the root of what they really want. Once they have the answer, they need to ask themselves if they still really want to do this in terms of whether doing so is good for them and good for the other person. Then if they still want to go ahead with the action, they need to be willing to tell the other person why they really want to do this. If they are not willing to be forthcoming about their true motivations, then don’t do it. “Generosity of spirit” requires “clarity of spirit.”
Ego-based generosity: Threes may or may not give to others with frequency; some do and some don’t. But when they do, Threes may give in a number of ways: they may offer thoughtful presents to people (especially if they have a Two or Four wing or if they are “courting” the other person for romance, friendship, or some other sort of relationship); they may give money and/or time to a social or political cause, though they can end up with a key position in the organization or a plaque on a wall (and in some cases, they like being the “anonymous” donor, although some feel good about themselves that they are asking for so little recognition); they may mentor someone who they perceive as less experienced than themselves in some way or mentor someone they perceive as having a great deal of potential.
To engage true “generosity of spirit:” How to do this is neither easy nor simple; in fact, it can take a very long time for Threes to really be able to do this. Threes have to learn to “be” rather than to “do” and to spend introspective time contemplating who they really are and what they really want. “Generosity of spirit” comes from the spirit, and spirit resides in who you are deep inside, not what you appear to be or are able to do. But, how does one “be?” Many Threes try to “do” being, but being isn’t something one does. It’s something one is. Here are some ways of discovering being. Ask 6 other people – not Threes – how and when they experience being. Then consider if any of these ideas might work for you. The other alternative is to spend a specific amount of time each day – and be realistic about how much time you can tolerate – doing nothing that you might normally have to justify as useful, results generating, or even as an obligation of some sort. For example, read a book just for fun, but read every page and enjoy the process of reading, not the result of having read that particular book. If you want to just sit in a chair for the specified amount of time, do that but without falling asleep. Or if you feel like (not should) taking a walk, take the walk and notice everything around you haven’t noticed before. Enjoy the experience of walking, not the destination reach or the short amount of time in which you were able to do this.
Ego-based generosity: Because Fours are referred to as “self-referencing,” some might incorrectly think that Fours are selfish, self-centered, and other words that are the opposite of “generous of spirit.” In fact, Fours can be very supportive and generous, but how do they know when it is true “generosity of spirit” and when it is ego-based? Fours give in a variety of ways, often emotionally based: they give of their time when others are in distress, listening with patience and understanding; they offer services and time without cost to others when doing so aligns with their deeply-held values; they can be friends in need, being available to those whom they care about.
To engage true “generosity of spirit:” This “generosity of emotion” may not be the same thing as true “generosity of spirit,” but how is a Four to discern the difference? Fours empathize, but how do they separate their own deeply-felt (yet ego-based) need to feel connected by sharing of emotional experiences from the ability to really be there for another person while setting their own feelings and needs aside. “Generosity of spirit” involves more than the heart, it also includes generosity of mind and action. The simple act of being there for another person, especially when Fours are also suffering in some way themselves, is a true act of the spirit. To put oneself aside and to truly focus on the other, especially when one is enduring one’s own feelings, is true generosity. Fours can try this simple statement and repeat it over and over so that it permeates their mind, heart, and whole body: What matters here is completely about the other person and not at all about me.
Ego-based generosity: Do you think of Fives as generous, especially because greed is their mental fixation (habit of mind) and avariceis their passion (chronic emotional pattern)? Think again, because Fives can be extremely generous and deeply moved, so extremely so that there is a purity about it that is awesome and daunting. Even though the Five general tendency is to keep resources to themselves, maintain their physical boundaries and privacy, and generally guard themselves, they can also be generous in many ways: they share information that they know a great deal about and believe will be useful to others; they are more aware and respectful of their own boundaries so that when they do extend themselves, they do so with the known-risk of depleting themselves but do it anyway; they provide unexpected gifts – for example, sharing feelings, being available in crises – in lovely ways. However, the ego structure of Fives keeps them from being as truly generous of spirit as they can be.
To engage true “generosity of spirit:” How to do this is really very clear, but it is by no means easy because this shift involves a fundamental change in the Five’s worldview; shifting from a firmly-rooted belief system that there are absolutely scarce resources – internally and externally – such that these need to be guarded and conserved at all times. And moving to a worldview where there are ample – though not endless – resources so that, in many instances, the more one shares or gives, the more resources that are generated. This move from “false scarcity” to “realistic abundance” allows Fives to engage in true “generosity of spirit.” But how do Fives do this and be so certain that their scarcity paradigm is a true reflection of reality? After all, when they “overspend” their time and energy limits, Fives do get depleted. The best way for Fives to make this shift is through concrete experience, and this is how: First, recognize that some of your feeling of depletion comes from the fact that you are putting so much energy into conserving and guarding, that this in itself can be depleting. Then relax, stop holding yourself in, and engage in some activity in a highly spontaneous way, doing it even longer than you might normally. Experience what happens. Keep repeating this: relax, engage, and enjoy the experience of actually gaining more energy rather than losing it. In addition, consider this idea: perhaps you are concerned that if you freely give to another, that person will expect even more of you. What if this were not true?
Ego-based generosity: Many Sixes are highly considerate of others, even generous; they share their concerns and perceptions as well as insights about you; they demonstrate their loyalty and friendship by giving in a variety of ways – calling when you are sick, doing errands should you need them, and more; they give by thinking, feeling, or acting protective of other people with whom they have shared experiences and sentiments, even rising to their defense in public settings. These acts can feel very generous and in many ways, they are. However, they are also connected to the Sixes’ ego-based needs for safety and protection.
To engage true “generosity of spirit:” How to do this might seem complex, because Sixes are complex. However, the path through complexity can be simplicity. When you stop worrying or being reactive (even if you are not aware that you are being vigilant or reactive), you are freer to allow your natural “generosity of spirit” to emerge. So, do whatever you need to do to calm yourself and let your true warmth and giving spirit show itself in a spontaneous way.
Ego-based generosity: Sevens perceive themselves as giving to others and they do, in their way; they generously share their ideas or want to hear about yours; their contagious enthusiasm can be considered generous (after all, they want to spread happiness); and many Sevens, especially social subtype Sevens, will do for others and sacrifice their own need for gratification on behalf of others, particularly the group. But these ways of being generous are really more ego-based ways of being generous, essentially designed (although most often unconsciously so), to excite and stimulate the Seven or, in the social subtype Seven example, to make the social Seven feel a little better than others since he or she could delay the gratification (emphasis on the word “delay”).
To engage true “generosity of spirit:” Although the way for Sevens to do this is not easy, it is clear: develop your own capacity for true and deep feeling because true “generosity of spirit” arises from sensitivity and compassion. This requires the development of your ability to focus, especially when you feel sad, anxious, or uncomfortable.
Ego-based generosity: Many Eights would describe themselves as generous, while others, not so much. Which is true? The answer is that Eights, like the rest of us, can be generous, but is this generosity of spirit or ego-based generosity? Eights can be generous in many way: protecting others whom they feel are less strong and need a spirited defender; standing up for injustices toward others; being warm, encouraging and supportive of those they believe are strengthened by such support. But, these examples are also illustrations of ego-based generosity because they are designed (unconsciously) to elevate the Eight into a status or position of strength vis-a-vis those they protect, defend, and support. After all, the strong protect the weak, the tough stand up for injustice, and those who already feel big support others to become bigger.
To engage true “generosity of spirit:” True “generosity of spirit” does not come from bigness or being tough. It actually comes from humility and vulnerability in which a person’s open-heartedness reaches out to another’s. And this cannot be done from being more elevated; it comes from being fully human. For Eights to be truly “generous of spirit,” they need to experience and reveal their own capacity for vulnerability and need for others. In other words, they need to delve into their own heart, open themselves, and even allow other to be generous with them. “Generosity of spirit” is a reciprocal experience.
Ego-based generosity: Many Nines appear to be quite generous, focused on others, and available as needed. Here are some of the ways in which Nines do this: they smile, nod, and appear to listen attentively; they appear to wholeheartedly engage in interactions with you and say “yes” far more than “no”; they appear kind-hearted and non-judgmental about issues that would likely cause others to become judgmental and non-accepting. All these behaviors can feel like “generosity of spirit” and while they may be generous, they can also be coming from the ego-structure of Nines. Why? Ennea-type Nines like to blend, merge, be non-controversial, and non-adversarial as a way of keeping the peace, avoiding conflict, and maintaining their comfort.
To engage true “generosity of spirit:” To do this, Nines have to deal with their fundamental development issue: staying awake and maintaining their sense of separate self when engaging with others or even the environment. When a person merges or blends and, in the process, loses one’s sense of self, there is no deeper self from which true “generosity of spirit” can emerge. How would a Nine know if she or he wanted to do something generous or not without having a strong sense of a differentiated self? If one simply “goes with the flow,” as many Nines do, is this really true “generosity of spirit” or is it an automatic response to continue the relational rapport that Nines strive to create and maintain? To “wake up,” Nines have many paths: speak your true voice; assert yourself; get in touch with the embers of your volcanic anger; ask yourself every 15 minutes what you are really thinking, feeling, and want to do.