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Generous to a fault

A couple of years ago, my favourite yogi Eoin asked the question “what was a gift you were given by your parents”. My answer then was the same as today: from my mother Brenda, I was given the gift of appreciation (she of the “don’t postpone joy” maxim). And from my father, Richard, I was given the gift of generosity. It is impossible for him to make soup without bringing us some. Loaves of bread too. What he has, he shares. I think this philosophy is lovely and makes the world go ‘round. My world, in any case.

In recent years, I have been accused of being “generous to a fault”. It’s a funny turn of phrase, don’t you think? A compli-sult, really.  I’ve stewed thought about it plenty and I really struggle with getting my head around it.

Call me simple (actually, please don’t)…I see generosity as good. A core value of mine to be cherished and fostered, much like its kindness cousins compassion and empathy. So how/when does an abundance of what is good become a fault?

So I asked the twittosphere (a place of unbridled generosity, so I’ve found) this question:

Do you think it’s possible to be “generous to a fault”?

Responses varied from perspectives on the types of people in your life (and if they were “users” or not) to whether or not to “generous to a fault” means giving what you don’t have, or out of compulsion – not true generosity.

Hmmmm. Well, that certainly sparked some voices in my head.

I had painfully set aside a day to get caught up on my bookkeeping. Which was a grievous underestimation of how MANY days I should have set aside, but I digress.

What I noticed in the process was HOW MUCH MONEY I’ve been spending on my business. The mundane stuff: paper, toner, staples, blah de blah; the investment stuff: training courses, certification, hardware; the cerebral stuff: books, e-books, programs and then all the rest. And all the rest is the killer…piles and piles and PILES of receipts for dinners, lunches and coffee dates. All related to my business and all adding up to some impressive numbers (or depressive…depends on your perspective).

So the voices started hollering: “SEE? You ARE generous to a fault, fool! You can’t afford to be the big spender! Who do you think you are? What are you doing paying for everything? What does it give YOU?”

Do any of those charming voices sound familiar? And those loud sabotaging buggers, they really CAN make you feel small, right? Like the COMPLETE opposite of the intention of generosity.

Which is the point. Saboteurs (’cause that’s what they are) WANT you to feel small. That’s how they like you. Small and safe and in the mid-range.

And that, I have discovered, is really not for me.

I have HUGE respect for people who give of themselves with abandon (professionally and personally). It’s hard to do…you run the risk of being called compulsive. Your intentions are questioned. You also run the risk of giving it all away. Yikes!

I am loving the trends I’m seeing on-line. Generosity is finding its way into the business space. Top bloggers talk of giving your best content away. Delicious.

I have this kooky belief that if we all found our edge, stopped being so concerned about being so bloody moderate all the time that something magical would happen.

I have MUCH MUCH farther to go in my own journey of generosity. And I’m not talking about picking up the lunch tabs. I have wisdom, talent and gifts that quite frankly, I’ve been keeping bottled up. Hoarding them. So my new intention is to go to my own edge of my capacity to give. It may well be considered a fault, but we can just go ahead and add it to the pile, now can’t we?

What if you always gave the best of yourself? What would that look like?



  1. I’ve occasionally been accused of the same fault. I’ve actually had to develop a “paying jobs come first” policy when it comes to my freelance work, but I still have a tough time saying no to people. A more cynical person might look at some of the pro-bono work I’ve done and say that there’s a benefit to it in terms of my reputation as a designer/art director/photographer, which is true, I suppose, but that’s not why I take on those jobs. I do them because I find worth in the idea, or the people themselves.

    I’m probably not making much sense, though. Carrie from Pink Elephant would probably explain it better than me.

    • The pro bono work you’ve done seems to me to come from a wonderful place of integrity. And you’ve explained it beautifully…just like your work.

  2. I love the phrase “give of themselves with abandon” – what a terribly tantalizing thing to imagine! Thanks for sending my mind in that direction :-)

    • Tons of possibility there, eh Laura?! Thanks for stopping by…and for your generous compliment ;-)!

  3. Pushing your growing edge, giving the best of yourself, refusing to play small, giving with abandon (which sounds like joy) … hard to imagine any of this sort of generosity as a fault. I like the way you think!

    • I KNEW we were kindred spirits!!!

  4. Hi, Tanya.
    Generous to a fault has an entirely different meaning. The fault occurs when you are so generous with your “wisdom, talent and gifts,” that you prevent others from discovering their own wisdom, nurturing their own talent and enjoying making their own gifts.
    Best wishes.

    • Thanks for that perspective, Peter.

  5. What I do or give to others gives me joy knowing it will make his life easier and happier for the moment. These are affordable little things to me that meant a lot to him. But it has its negative side when the receiving end becomes complacent or lazy knowing everything is going to be provided. I try to balance the generosity with encouragement, guidance and training. In the end, it depends on how he will use it as a stepping stone to become independent and advance to the next level… I see no harm except sometimes you get hurt or disappointed …

  6. I don’t think most people nowdays think of “generous to a fault” to have the meaning imputed by Peter. I think people who accuse others of being generous to a fault are really saying “your generosity is making me feel guilty for not being generous at all” and I say they’ll just have to live with that, as I don’t WANT to change my generous nature. If you’re not starving your children in order to help others, I don’t see where anyone has a right to complain. Love your writing.



  1. December 11: Grateful: Generous People « Ready for Change - [...] One of them is Tanya Geisler, who wrote about being generous to a fault (the woman lives [...]

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