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Key 12 to reclaiming joy: Be generous in sharing with others.

Since October I have worked my way through the Apostle Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, examining 12 keys to moving from grief to joy. These keys are not simply principles. Paul provides an order—a road map—for moving from discouragement to joy. His letter opens with his gratitude to the Philippians for their generosity to him, and the letter closes in the same way: Paul has everything he needs in his prison cell in Rome because of the sacrificial gift the church sent him.

Keys to Joy thumbnailI learned very early in my journey through widowhood that gratitude is essential to my maintaining a positive outlook. By taking time every day to make a mental list of all I had to be thankful for and to pause to say thank you, God, for… I was able to begin my climb up that mountain from grief to joy. Furthermore, I discovered that I was happier when I quit focusing on my own needs and started focusing on others. I have written a lot about gratitude and thanksgiving, less on generosity; and it is time to connect the dots between the two.

My writing on grief and widowhood has been largely experiential, at times almost stream-of-consciousness. I waited until the third draft of my book to read, research and analyze others’ work on the subject. Only recently did I learn that there is now a “science” of gratitude—the stylish new trend in self-help literature, with all sorts of promised benefits. When I googled gratitude generosity, I got 12.3 million hits. Most major publications chimed in. Here are a few:

While there is wide agreement that gratitude leads to generosity—people who focus on what they don’t have tend not to be generous—The New York Times recently sounded a cautionary note in an article entitled The Selfish Side of Gratitude, by Barbara Ehrenreich.

Is it truly gratitude when the giving is done in order to receive benefits? Paul called the Philippians’ generosity a sacrifice. Jesus preached about it:

When therefore you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will repay you. Matthew 6:2–4 NASB

Let’s continue the conversation

What do you think?
Do you find a connection between gratitude and happiness? between gratitude and generosity?

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I have finally completed my series on keys to reclaiming joy. My goal is to go back to that original list, which I published on May 18, and add links to each of the blogs. I will also attempt to turn the 12 featured memes into a slideshow. Watch for these posts later in the month. My next weekly series will be on six aspects of grief—intellectual, emotional, physical, spiritual, social and financial. I may post additional, less serious blogs from time to time; but I need to focus on final book revisions, updating my query letter, building my platform and finding an agent. Meanwhile, you can find me daily on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Just click on the appropriate button in the right sidebar to follow me.