A new book written by Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson entitled The Paradox of Generosity scientifically proves that generous people, on the whole, are happier and healthier and have a greater sense of purpose than others. This is even after controlling for a number of other factors, including income. Their argument isn’t based on philosophical or spiritual criteria. Instead, it is based on a pair or sociological studies he and his research team conducted across the United States. Mr Smith believes he has proven that sustained or what he calls “practiced,” behavior causes better life outcomes.
Mr. Smith is the principal investigator of The Science of Generosity Initiative, a project at Notre Dame started in 2009 with a $5 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation. The project includes sociologists, economists, psychologists and political scientists each examining some aspect of generosity.
There is something about sustained generosity that causes happiness. It doesn’t just happen by donating blood or lending a possession one time. It even works for a whole family when they participate together. Generous families have broader social circles and felt a greater life purpose. The ungenerous, by comparison, live narrow, cynical lives dominated by a looming fear of poverty.
A paradox is that a large majority or Americans “fail to practice the kids of generosity that actually lead to happiness, health and purpose in life.” Less than 3 percent give away at least 10 percent of their income. Mr. Smith believes that an ungenerous person can “fake it until you make it” and that if more people knew the positive outcomes associated with generosity they would begin to practice it and eventually fall into patterns of authentic giving.
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