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Personal growth: When our generosity can be misguided June 19, 2014

Posted by Dennis Mellersh in Concept of personal growth.
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As part of our personal self-development programs, many of us include making an effort to improve the level of qualities such as generosity in our intellectual and emotional make-up.

And clearly, this is worth doing and is win-win – as long as we temper this impulse with moderation and good judgement.

When we make the effort to praise someone’s efforts or achievements, for example, we are in fact being generous; somewhat different than giving money to someone who is in need, but it is generosity nevertheless.

In some circumstances, however, it can be problematic when the generosity of our praise is given so as to not hurt a person’s feelings or to flatter them. It then becomes false praise and false generosity.

In some cases, if someone is asking our opinion about a project they have accomplished, they are seeking analytical input from us rather than wanting “feel-good” praise from us.

They are looking for a learning and growth experience from our judgement. They want our generosity of “praise” to be well considered and meaningful.

The ancient and revered Chinese sage and teacher Confucius often looked to others, such as his students and disciples to add critical (analytical) input to his thinking.  He did not consider himself to be all-knowing, and he did not want uncritical admiration and blind acceptance of his principles.

The following comment by Confucius about one of his disciples, Yen Hui, illustrates this concept:

“The Master said: ‘Yen Hui’s never helped me much: no matter what I say, he’s delighted.’” (1)

(1)  Confucius, The Analects, as translated by David Hinton in his book The Four Chinese Classics

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