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Those who support others bring joy to themselves. But generosity has even more facets. We discussed what these are with an enthusiastic giver.
There is nothing more gratifying than generous people. They like to invite you, take our little quirks with ease and chauffeur us, despite the detour, to the front door. Christine Nöstlinger, for example, the brilliant children's book author, was a prime example of generosity. If you admired a vase on her dresser, it could be that she took the good piece and held it out to you: "Take it! I'll give it to you. You should never own more than you really need anyway." Or Anna, a good friend. She always has an open house and a full refrigerator and has never counted who has used it and how often. She is one of the amazed people we know.
The gesture of the German millionaire couple, who spontaneously paid for the delivery of a daily warm meal to a pensioner for a year, was also great. The 81-year-old had told on television how difficult it is to make ends meet with her small pension.
Give money, time or commitment and don't ask for a long time: What do I get out of it? After an argument, take the first step towards reconciliation and don't add up to who is to blame. Give the hard-working waiter a good tip or come as a brother right away and fix the heating for the sister, even if you have appointments yourself - it's all generosity. Its essence is not to calculate, to impose conditions and not to expect anything in return.
Although it occurs automatically, because: Giving pleasure is healthy and makes you happy. It has been scientifically proven. The nice feeling of being able to do someone good is also called "Warm Glow". How much you can "treat yourself to something" for others and ultimately also for yourself is usually determined in childhood. Susanne Kippenberger, for example, had parents who exemplified generous behavior. Today the journalist sees herself as a "passionate giver" and has written a book about her favorite subject: "The Art of Generosity".
We chatted with the expert about the most beautiful trait in the world: generosity
WOMAN: Who actually invented giving? Or is there a gene, so to speak?
Kippenberger: You could almost think so. Because even the smallest children pick flowers, collect stones and give them to the grown-ups. But I think there have to be role models too. For me it was my parents.
Even such passionate givers?
Kippenberger: My mother bought Christmas presents in the summer. Giving is shopping with a clear conscience because it is for others. Sometimes she hid the finds so well that she couldn't find them again in Advent. I feel the same way sometimes. Never mind - it's a birthday soon.
What about your father?
Kippenberger: He was the king of hospitality and therefore no longer went to his brother-in-law, because he counted the potatoes one by one at dinner invitations.
Why are some people so stingy?
Kippenberger: There can be pure egoism behind it, but also the inner pattern: I am not allowed to treat myself and then also to the others.
Because your parents may have taught you to spend money unnecessarily, it is a mortal sin. There is also the much touted "greed is cool!"
Kippenberger: But it is not. It has long been scientifically proven that giving makes one happy. And in the age of narcissism, self-optimization and mindfulness, especially for one's own needs, it is good for everyone not only to think about themselves.
But there are also contemporaries who definitely don't want to be given anything for free
Kippenberger: They didn't understand what it was about. Namely always about relationships and bonds between people. You think about what might be best for the other. In the course of my research, I learned a lot about what presents actually mean, and then looked around at myself. In my bookcase, on the kitchen shelf, by the tablecloths, in the cupboard, there are gifts everywhere and they connect you to another person. If someone says they don't want anything and they have an apartment without all those things, I would be really worried. Because he evidently rejects others: I don't want anything from you.
Perhaps these people worry about having to be grateful
Kippenberger: Yes, but gratitude isn't a punishment, it's happiness. When you feel it, you feel much better, as several studies say. Age and brain researchers recommend it as a therapy. It's about realizing that not everything can be taken for granted. We know: those who feel they have received a lot share more generously. People who see their own life as happiness also want to give something back. This boosts altruism and the willingness to donate.
But if, as you said, gifts are about relationships, what if you make a mistake? Instead of a happy face, a disappointed one looks
Kippenberger: What people really find very hurtful is when they feel like they are not seen for who they are. I remember a woman who said how offended she felt a Christmas present from her husband. She, who was a very insecure cyclist, found a racing bike under the tree. "What does he mean by that? He obviously wants me to be more athletic." The racing bike has been hanging in the garage unused for 20 years.
It was a long time ago that we gave a school colleague a deodorant because, well … We are still sorry about that today. But sometimes you unintentionally grab the wrong item when it comes to presents. You buy a beautiful bouquet and the recipient is upset because he sees cut flowers as murder victims, as you sketch it in the book
Kippenberger: (laughs) If it's a mistake, then you can be more relaxed about it, generously overlook it. That's something men can do better. They are often not so good givers because they worry less about what the other would be happy about. But when a gift goes wrong, they tend to laugh at it. While women, because they put more feeling into their own presents, are then also more vulnerable. Whereby: Of course there are things that don't work at all. When, for example, a dry alcoholic finds wine bottles under the Christmas tree.
That is clear. But sometimes it's really difficult to find the right one. Some people already have everything
Kippenberger: I'm 63 now and don't need another wooden spoon. But there are other options. I come up with a joint venture, a walk, a meal, a tea time and give a corresponding voucher. But please also redeem them. My niece once said that it was more hurtful than getting nothing if the donors made no move to keep what was promised.
Some parents report about their children's vouchers: washing dishes five times, vacuuming ten times or taking the dog for a walk, and they have been lying patiently in the box for years. The children have long since grown up
Kippenberger: I would be radical and remind you that something is still open.
With official vouchers you don't have to worry about them
Kippenberger: I am very reluctant to give that as a present. 50 euros for an internet provider - better not. That only works if I know that someone specifically wants it. Otherwise, giving money and vouchers is a real indictment for me. You can make a little more effort.
What if you get some?
Kippenberger: Not my thing either. After two months at the latest, I moved it somewhere and forgot it. I've now found a few in the course of a little clean-up. Some were already dilapidated.
What do you immediately remember when it comes to our topic?
Kippenberger: An experience in early 2020 when I got on the bus in a small Irish town. I had the fare, 18 euros, not appropriate, only 15 euros small and a larger bank note that the driver couldn't change. When I turned to the passengers for help, an older man in the first row was already holding out coins to me: "How much do you need?" It was clear that we would never see each other again. He offered me, the stranger, a present. The gesture warmed my heart to this day. That is real kindness, a word that you can only translate into German with generosity.
We ourselves and some friends have simply added money when someone at the supermarket checkout had a little too little with them. We would do that again anytime
Kippenberger: Generosity is like medicine. In her book on resilience, science journalist Christina Berndt showed the five strategies that research sees as particularly useful for psychological resilience: living social bonds, being generous and helping, being grateful, developing routines and perceiving the positive.
And, to emphasize again, this attitude certainly has nothing to do primarily with money and wealth
Kippenberger: Not at all. Just think how families who don't have much of their own often set their tables richly for guests. How often someone scrapes up their last money to please someone else. Being able to jump over one's own shadow is a sign of generosity. For example the man who gives his wife a sculpture that he himself finds hideous, but of which she dreams.
It's just not supposed to be that the generosity of some is then taken advantage of by some, is it?
Kippenberger: I think that regulates itself. Generosity reaches its limits when the other pushes, expects something concrete, or takes it all for granted. You want to give because it is a need yourself. It doesn't have to be worth it, but it's still worth it.