When we think about the qualities we admire in people including famous personalities such as Bill Gates, generosity is often the word that comes to mind. But like many words in English, generosity can also be defined in several ways. One of the similarities among different definitions of generosity is that they all usually have positive meanings.
One way to define generosity may be showing mercy towards others. This is what Catholic Pope Francis meant when he claimed, “God desires “good and generous” hearts full of mercy for those in need.” (CNA/EWTN News). In other words, generosity means showing compassion towards others, especially, those who are less fortunate than us.
Generosity could also be defined as having an open heart for others. A generous person would help others without a second thought. One example of a generous person is Islam’s founder Prophet Muhammad whom his companion Ibn Abbas described as the “most generous of all people.” (PBUH). Muhammad would help anyone who would seek his help and often give the other person everything he would have at the time (PBUH).
Generosity could be understood as kindness also. A generous person is kind to others, irrespective of their background and treats others with respect. A generous person can put himself in others’ shoes. He understands people have emotions and he respects those emotions.
Generosity may also be understood as not being selfish. A generous person can help others without expecting anything in return. A generous person may sacrifice his own interests to advance the overall interests of the society. in contrast, a selfish person thinks about himself only. Every deed he does, he does to maximize his own interests. Even he helps someone, he expects greater benefits in return.
Since generosity could be understood as the opposite of selfishness, it may be appropriate to think of selfless service to humanity as generosity, too. This definition is, particularly, applicable to Saudi society where Islam plays a major role in culture and traditions. Saudis believe one should serve the society because that is what Allah wants us to do. As a result, an act of generosity in Saudi Arabia is one which advances the overall interests of the society whether it is helping a neighbor, making a donation to charity, or even serving food to the poor. Muslims believe expecting something in return makes the original good deed go to waste because such a deed was not done to please Allah but to generate worldly gains.
In Saudi Arabia, generosity is also understood as something without limits. Here generosity is usually associated with positive traits such as Allah’s generous love, Prophet Muhammad’s generous compassion, and the generous size of the universe. Similarly, generous may also mean having an extraordinarily huge size or scale. In this regard, Bill Gates charity works can be described as generous because they involve donations of billions of dollars to improve the wellbeing of the poorest people of the world. But this doesn’t mean a poor person cannot be generous. Someone who gives most of his possessions to charity is also generous because even though the actual donation may not be huge, it is still most of what the person possessed.
It is clear generosity can be defined in many ways. These definitions include showing mercy towards others, having an open heart that is always ready to help others, showing kindness, and not being selfish. Similarly, generosity may also be used to indicate the extraordinary size of a deed or a trait such as generous love, generous compassion, and generous acts of charity.