The Collision of Contentment and Generosity

“The giving of love is an education in itself.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Contentment. People look for it in all sorts of places. Some look for contentment in a high-paying job, yet show their discontent the first time they are passed over for a raise. Some look for it in a large home, yet show their discontent by requiring countless improvements. Many have sought contentment in a department store believing that one more item will finally match their desire, yet they are always disappointed… despite the promises made on television.

Could it be that we have been taught to look for contentment in all the wrong places?

What if contentment is actually found in the exact opposite place that we have been looking? What if contentment is not found in accumulating more, but is actually found in giving more?

We can easily understand how contentment leads to generosity – the less we need, the more we can give away. But could it be that the inverse is also true? That generosity also leads to contentment? That the two collide together in a way that encourages each other to exist all the more?

Consider for just a moment how generosity leads to contentment:

  • Generous people have a healthy understanding of how much they already own. People who give to those in need quickly realize how much they have to give.
  • Generous people value what they own. People who give away possessions hold their remaining possessions in higher esteem. People who give their time make better use of their time remaining. And people who donate money are far less wasteful with the money left over.
  • Generous people live happier, more fulfilled lives. Studies have shown that generous people are generally happier, healthier, and more satisfied with life. And once they find this satisfaction through generosity, they are less inclined to search for it elsewhere.
  • Generous people find meaning outside of their possessions. It is the American way to wrap up self-worth in net-worth… as if a person’s true value could ever be tallied on a balance sheet. Generous people find their value in helping others and quickly realize that their bank statement says nothing about their true value.
  • Generous people have more fulfilling relationships. People always enjoy the company of a generous giver to the company of a selfish hoarder.  People are naturally attracted towards others who have an open heart to share with others. And a good friend is the best gift you could ever give yourself.

Generous people have less desire for more. They have found fulfillment, meaning, value, and relationships outside of the acquisition of possessions. They have learned to find joy in what they already possess and give away the rest. In other words, they have found true contentment. This contentment naturally leads to even more generosity which leads to even greater contentment which leads to…

Are you searching for contentment in life? If so, try giving something away today. And open up the door for contentment and generosity to collide.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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  1. says

    our church has done simple thing these past two years. We’ve challenged the congregation to skip lattes, or parking fees (by taking the bus or riding a bike), or stay at home instead of eating out. They live simply for 50 days, and then we use the savings to dig wells in Uganda. There are now 30 wells in Uganda because one church in Seattle lived differently, just for 50 days. And many of us never looked back, choosing to continue riding to work, etc. Generosity is incredibly life giving. Thanks for pointing us there! You can read a bit about keeping water free for developing countries here:

    • says

      “Are you searching for contentment in life? If so, try giving something away today.”
      I’m already doing it but I love the way you’re inviting us all! Perhaps I’ll give away more! lol

      Wonderful post Joshua. The link is hard to ignore and you wrote about it beautifully. I’ve enjoyed the comments too.

  2. Virginia says

    Excellent post. I am aiming to live a life of a minimalist so I constantly purge my belongings. However, I just cannot seem to let go of my books. Yes. books.

        • Annabelle says

          Beth, I had to comment on your darling note ‘we librarians will keep them safe for you’. AND THAT IS SO TRUE!!! Thank you. We (a family of four, kids are 6 and 7) donated all, I MEAN ALL, our books and CD’s/DVD’s to the local library. This way, they can be utilized by so many other people, AND, if we should want to revisit a certain book or watch a previously owned DVD, all we have to do is WALK to the local library and CHECK THE ITEM(s) OUT!!!

          • Kate says

            I agree as well. I joke with my bookworm daughter and husband how nice it is that we have two libraries in our city just for us.


            Do be aware of how politicians tend to cut funding to libraries as one of the first. My mother is head of cataloging in a community college, and I have a librarian friend (assistant librarian in a private college’s library), and he is often red-faced-frustrated at the bureaucracy he has to deal with to get the state to budget a mere thousand more to the college libraries across the state, instead of sending multiple thousands willy-nilly to only the sports departments. I am all for sports, don’t get me wrong. I was in track, swim team, weight-lifting, and cross-country through high school and college, and it gave me firsthand view of the unfair division of funds that the education system has. Perhaps this trouble is only for college and school libraries, but I imagine public libraries* are in a similar boat.

            *With their records of past political slip-ups, histories, old newspaper articles, and to say it in one word: TRUTH they let anyone and everyone have access to…well…I can see how many a dishonest person in politics would fidget uncomfortably. *scowl*

  3. says

    Thank you Joshua. You said this better than I ever could. Through giving we do find peace and contentment. Stuff does not fill our cup. Experiences, sharing, giving, and loving do (and in return, fill others cups as well!). High-five for a timely, and well said post!

  4. says

    Thank you Joshua. You said this better than I ever could.It is a perfect motto for living life to the fullest possible. Through meaningful giving and freely sharing, we do find peace and contentment. Stuff does not fill our cup. Experiences, sharing, giving, and loving do (and in return, fill others cups as well!). High-five for a timely, and well said post!

  5. says

    Hey Josh very good post. I am thinking that with the holidays coming up in a few months, that giving would be the best way I can give back. I’m not positive exactly what I will give but I’m thinking that giving TIME also is something that can bring contentment. Thanks for the food for thought.

    • Di says

      Reggie, Our extended family used to have a gift exchange every Christmas with the value of the gift set at a certain amount. I would always struggle with this, because we did not “need” anything nor did anyone else in the family. Then a few years ago someone in the family came up with a fantastic idea: All participants’ names were put in a box; the person whose name was pulled out got to choose a charity of their choice and all of us would donate the amount we would have spent on a gift to that particular organization. Every year a different family member gets to choose the recipient of our donations. It has worked out beautifully and everyone is happy with the arrangement.

  6. says

    Recently, I’ve been placing unwanted antique jewelry and other old knicknacks in hollow trees while I walk my dog. I’m a modern day Boo Radley…without the creepiness….just a middle-aged mom/teacher trying to make some kid’s day a bit more magical :-)

    • says

      That is the most wonderful idea I’ve heard in a long time. And I LOVED that book as a kid. I have been giving things away on my blog – but this tree idea is even better, and my dog will definitely enjoy the hunt for hollow trees! What a perfect way to turn trinkets and trash into someone else’s treasure.

  7. says

    hey there,
    generosity begins with a smile, a smile from heart is the best medicine for open all hearts like with a key. it’s not difficult, only smiling. i have a post on my blog about smiling.
    simple living

  8. Christine says

    Joshua – Thank you for this article. It was just what I needed to read today.

    Richard – Thank you for sharing your story about your church. That is a wonderful thing that your church and its congregation did – I hope that your story can inspire others to do the same!

  9. says

    i love the point made that you value the possessions that you keep more, after you have given away boxes of other stuff.

    i loved the side effect of this process. i value the remaining items more, i take better care of them, and i enjoy my interactions with them more.

    does make me content!

  10. Briana says

    This is such good advice. Not just with tangible objects, but giving of yourself. I frequently get anxious when meeting up with a friend or getting ready to make a phone call to someone. I worry about what I will say. What I really need to do is give by listening and making myself available to that person. If I get in that mindset of giving, it all feels less scary and more do-able.

  11. Tricia says

    This is so true… there are so many more ways to have true fulfillment in ones life other than what society bombards us into believing today! I personally am finding myself at a point in my life where I am longing to return to a life that is more fulfilling than where I am currently. This was just the post that I needed to spur me on in my quest for a better and more fulfilling life! Thank you for your post, Josh!

  12. Di says

    Generosity and contentment. They go hand in hand don’t they. In the last few years I’ve been practicing having a contented spirit and encouraging others to do the same. It is much easier to become minimalist if one is content and it is much easier to be generous as well. “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation….” Thanks for a lovely post.

  13. lauren says

    Very inspiring…..all involved benefit in the flow of generosity. I so want to live more minimally and consume less, etc. —give more stuff away. I like the idea of the commenter (sp?) who hides antique jewelry and things in tree hollows, etc. How fun for someone to come across secret treasure! Still, I’m struggling internally between that want to live with less and the strong desire to acquire and have nice things. I also feel some comfort in extra stuff around—-like a layer of protection from stresses and harshness of the world. I continue to read and think and try to work out these
    opposite forces in my mind. I appreciate thoughtful posts like these.

  14. says

    I’ve made a project out of my desire for more contentment and generosity. I’ve been giving away free pie in a city park for 15 weeks. It’s been really rewarding to see the same people week after week, coming to share a love of food and sharing, as well as plenty of new faces too!

  15. Suki says

    As I read this lovely article my young daughter came over and shared her egg custard tart with me, the happiness in her expression from my thanks and enjoyment was unbeatable…and it tasted good! I returned this with cashews which we both love, small things!

  16. says

    Very true. I have never felt truly happy in any work except doing something for someone else. It just fills you with inner joy and peace for a very long time :)

Sites That Link to this Post

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