Generosity or its opposite

Way back this summer, I noticed this Facebook post by my friend Craig York:

When did we become such a selfish, frightened people, that we have made it shameful to share?

— Craig Anders York, 5 June 2011

Craig, I think, was reflecting specifically on the Texas state budget circus of 2011 and its impact on services to the people of Texas, but the words seem increasingly relevant in light of current public discourse. Selfishness, mean-spiritedness, pettiness seem to have come to define so much of both private and public life in recent years. Civility, kindness, generosity, cooperativeness are derided, labeled by the obnoxious term “politically correct”, judged to be in themselves offenses worthy of rebuke or at best as symptoms of a fool’s weak mind.

But I have to ask myself, can society survive if we cannot at least be kind to each other, if we do not recognize that the fate of each of us depends on the fate of all, if we cannot offer help when help is needed, if we do not see ourselves and all others as, in Dickens’ phrase, “fellow travellers to the grave”?

Don’t get me wrong — I’m not offering myself or my life as a shining example of anything. I’m certainly capable of being just as petty, self-centered, uncaring, and unkind as the next person. But I’m just wondering if there isn’t some way to bring a little more generosity into our lives. Without that, I see no answer to the present state of the world.


One thought on “Generosity or its opposite

  1. Generativity if the Seventh Stage in Erik Erikson’s theory of psychological development. It is, he believed, the project of the mature person to nurture and give back to the community. Each stage is built on the growing needs of the previous stage being fulfilled in some way. Stage Eight is the final growth and is wisdom if we have found a way to make meaning at the end of our lives.

    I wonder what Erikson would make of our society as it is now. Are we simply stuck in our adolescence, can we grow? I haven’t looked at Erikson’s work for a long time or at Jim Fowler’s faith development or at any of the feminist theologians who build from their work to understand how women process moral decisions….good food for thought, Robert, (and Craig), thank you.

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