When we reflect on the “I” in “Generosity,” we could say it stands for integrity. A self-giving, caring life strengthens our integrity in several ways: by clarifying our intentions and bolstering our purpose, by strengthening consistent, ethical decision-making, and by challenging us to be the same, whole persons no matter what our outward circumstances.
Ronald Greer has written a book titled If You Know Who You Are You’ll Know What to Do. In it he says the term integrity comes from the Latin word for “whole, integrated, complete,” so the concept has to do with one’s thoughts, feelings and actions fitting together in harmony.
“Integrity involves both the uniqueness of who I am as a person and the integration of the values and wisdom that guide me,” says Greer. So it involves two essential aspects:
First, being true to the uniqueness of who I am as a person; and
Second, my “moral integrity:” living in alignment with the values and wisdom that guide me. This is not a one-time decision but rather an ongoing choice I make to be defined by what I believe to be true for me.
So far, so good. But none of us lives permanently in that ideal place. So how can generous behavior help us live with more personal and moral integrity? Here are a few ways generous actions move us in the right direction:
+ Self-giving behavior prompts us to see people’s unmet needs and inner hungers, revealing opportunities to nurture people’s lives and touch their hearts.
+ Any small act of compassion can move us from a general awareness of others to personal commitment to place their welfare first in this moment.
+ Actions of heartfelt caring are not based on our feelings at the moment, but on our ongoing decisions.
+ Reaching out to another person is reaching out beyond oneself, reaching out because you matter to me, not because it gives me an edge.
Methodist founder John Wesley describes such specific behaviors as “spiritual disciplines.” They are actions that arise out of the character of a person. At the same time, the more we practice such disciplines, the more we become generous in who we are, with “Christ-in-us” integrity.
Your partner in ministry,
Written 8/2013 for Foothills UMC, Rescue, CA