Jesus famously said “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). More than just a memorable quip, Jesus knew exactly what he was talking about. Here are five ways giving literally makes you happier.
1). Giving actually makes you happier. The Wall Street Journal, hardly a theological or pro-Christian publication, ran an intriguing article titled “Hard-Wired for Giving“. And here’s the tagline and I love this: Contrary to conventional wisdom that humans are essentially selfish, scientists are finding that the brain is built for generosity. Now, they’re not willing to come out and say who hard-wired for generosity, but I can: It’s God. Here’s what they discovered, when a person donates to a worthy cause, the mid-brain region of the brain lights up like a Christmas tree. Chemicals are released in your brain and you actually feel happier. Just for reference, it’s the same region of the brain that lights up when (and they make this analogy, not me), when you eat chocolate or make babies. We’re literally hard-wired to be generous and feel pleasure when we tap into how God made us. That’s the first reason. It’s more blessed to give than to receive. You’re happier when you give.
2). Giving loosens the grip of selfishness on your heart. I talked about this recently with the Greed Principle. Giving is the only antidote to greed. You know this from experience. If you want to be miserable (which is the opposite of happy or blessed), then be selfish. Think about the most selfish, greedy person you know. They don’t give anything to anyone. You know to not even ask them if you need anything, because the answer will be ‘no.’ Are they usually happy? No, usually they’re the most miserable people you know. Why? Because greed is a cancer that will eat you up from the inside out and destroy everything good about you if you let it. When you give, it’s literally like you’re releasing the negative toxins and you’re keeping a hard shell of selfishness and greed from encasing your heart. It’s more blessed to give than to receive. You’re happier when you give.
3). Giving strengthens social bonds and deepens human relationships. When you become a generous person, it seeps over into your relationships with other people. When you become a generous person, it doesn’t just stop with money. You become generous with your time and with your talents. That’s why researchers from the University of Notre Dame did a nationwide research project and discovered that people who described their lives as “very happy” volunteer an average of 5.8 hours per month and people who described their lives as “unhappy” volunteer an average of 0.6 hours per month. Just think about it. If you were choosing who you wanted to spend an afternoon with, a person who was known to be stingy, self-centered and greedy or a person who was generous and giving, who would you want to hang out with? The generous person. Not even with the expectation that you’d get anything. They’re just better people to hang around. When you develop a life of generosity, people will want to hang around you more, not because they want a hand out but because generous people are better to hang around with. You’ll have more relationships and deeper friendships. If you’re greedy and self-centered, people will avoid you and you’ll live a life of isolation. Being generous makes you happier because it strengthens and deepens your bonds with other people. It’s more blessed to give than to receive. You’re happier when you give.
5). When you give you connect with your divine identity. This is when we begin to move from the natural to the supernatural. As the Wall Street Journal itself reports, we are hard-wired to give. When we give and begin to live a life of generosity, we tap into our divine identity. How so? When we give, we’re more like God, because God at his core is a giver. What does the most famous verse in the Bible say? “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
Do you want to become like God? Become a giver. God is a giver. God is generous, and we celebrate that generosity, that grace, every time we come together. When we connect to our divine identity, we begin to unlock that blessedness, that divine happiness, that God wants all of us to experience.