Sparks of Kindness: Is generosity a paradox?

January 22, 2015

By: Wayne Baker

Originally posted on

Generosity is giving freely and unselfishly of your time, money, and resources to benefit others. But generosity is a paradox, say sociologists Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson.

How so?

It’s a paradox because the more we give away, the more we get in return. In their book The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose, Smith and Davidson put it this way: “Those who give their resources away, receive back in turn. In offering our time, money, and energy in service of others’ well-being, we enhance our own well-being as well. In letting go of some of what we own for the good of others, we better secure our own lives, too.”

Generosity, then, is good for the giver and the receiver.

They note, too, that stinginess has a price. “By clinging to what we have, we lose out on higher goods we might gain. By holding onto what we possess, we diminish its long-term value to us. In protecting only ourselves against future uncertainties and misfortunes, we become more anxious about uncertainties and vulnerable to future misfortunes. In short, by failing to care well for others, we actually do not properly take care of ourselves.”

Understanding the paradox of generosity is easy, they say. But being generous can be hard. On this point, I beg to differ. Being generous is easy—once you think of Sparks of Kindness. This social movement provides everything from inspiration to practical tips and tools. You can see all these resources at their Facebook page.

Once you know about Sparks of Kindness, being generosity isn’t hard at all!

When you unselfishly help others, how does it make you feel?
Do you believe you get richer by giving riches away?
What’s your Spark?