In Defense of Being Stingy– When is it Ok?


Today’s big idea is that being generous isn’t an all or nothing proposition. You can be generous in some ways, and stingy in others. And it’s really fascinating to start to unpack where you are a natural giver, and where you might be more likely to freeze up and think, oh heck no.  

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Honestly, there are times that my being freezes up, some of them are justified, and some of them aren’t.

Like, when my daughter asks if she can have two friends spend the night instead of just one. What’s the big deal? I mean, yes, that means we’re responsible for another young person’s security for the night, but in reality, they’re just going to be down in the basement anyway. But it just makes me feel an immediate NO. 

I mean, my grandmother, whom I spent a lot of time with as a kid, was the WORST TIPPER EVER. And having people over to dinner was just a huge stressor to her, so either she never did it, or she expressed a lot of angst about it. So perhaps I come by some stingy-ness honestly.

Which leads me to my point that we can be conditioned to be stingy

Many of us have gotten explicit or implicit message that we need to keep whatever we have to ourselves, because anytime we give something away, we lose. That may show up as a belief that you need to spend as little money as possible; and that amassing as many resources as possible and keeping them to yourself is a virtuous and just thing to do. Or it may show up in the form of, I’ll take care of my own, and you take care of your own. Or some other stance that you may not be fully aware that you have. 

So, what are some ways that you are stingy? 

Maybe you hide behind the couch when you see someone you don’t recognize knocking at your door. (I do!) Or maybe you excuse yourself and go hang out in the bathroom during the portion of the fundraiser where they, you know, actually ask for funds. (I read a magazine article once that said this was Martha Stewart’s go to strategy.) Or when anyone says, I have a favor to ask, your immediate thought is, “oh crap.” 

First, I just want to say, whatever your answer is, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person. We all have our ways that we are comfortable giving and our ways that we are less comfortable giving. You don’t have to be a saint and welcome every ask with a gracious spirit or else you’re a bad person. 

I trust your instincts. Maybe someone is over-asking and it’s completely appropriate to be having a ‘not today, friend’ reaction. What I don’t trust as much is your ego, which will often try to tell you that there isn’t enough to go around, that you have to protect what’s yours, and that you need to keep your giving and receiving accounts perfectly balanced. 

Daily Tiny Assignment

So, your tiny assignment is, the next time you notice your stingy shields go up, is to ask yourself–does this particular thing in this particular moment feel like too much, or, is there some broader belief at play here? Am I feeling like if I give, I’ll somehow lose? Have I gotten hooked into keeping score again? Just check in with yourself, which is something we often don’t do. We just act and react on autopilot. But if you pause long enough to ask yourself what’s really going on, you’re likely to get some really good information. 

IF you realize that you’re having a habitual response–that tells you you have to protect what you have or else you’re in danger–then my challenge to you is to find some way to be at least a little more generous than you otherwise would be. Giving $5 instead of $0, or answering an email with a request to pick your brain with a thanks for writing, I’m not available to meet, but check out this resource that I have found to be very useful. 

Just expand your options in that moment–moving your needle even a little bit more toward giving and away from stingy will help free you from any conditioning you may have picked up that you need to protect, or even hoard, your resources at all costs. This is how you learn to trust the universe or life or God more, and that’s, paradoxically, how giving helps you feel more supported. 

I have a very good feeling that it will help you feel like a better person. 

That’s it from me today! I hope you have a great weekend. 


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