Generosity or Stupidity?
I have a friend who would cut off his right arm if it could help a complete stranger in their time of need. Okay, so maybe this is a touch of an exaggeration, but in truth it’s not far off the mark. And with this level of generosity unassumingly extended to strangers, you can only imagine how far he’ll go for a friend.
He has a daughter he supports from afar, and although the agreement with his ex-wife is more than fair, he regularly sends far more money than is required, even though he is still swimming in the debts of their marriage (having taken it all on his shoulders unnecessarily).
Although I don’t believe he has ever come completely clean about his financial situation, I know enough about it to know he has no business treating groups of friends to fancy meals, and generally spending money like it is nothing. We all try our best to contribute, but he makes it impossible to do so and will actually become belligerent about it at times. He’d rather throw our money on the ground and walk away from it than let us pay. (We have of course learned to deal with this by not going out to dinner with him, but he still manages to find ways to spend money on us).
He is not the only person I know like this. I have known a few people who, despite meager finances, will attempt to foot the bill for everybody at dinner, saying with a flippant shrug that we can “catch them next time”. But when next time comes around, the story often changes and we manage to repeat the same charade.
As a frugal person (and one who has gone through times when money was scarce to non-existent), I don’t understand the rationale behind this generosity. I’m not stingy by any stretch, but if I didn’t have the money, paying for everybody didn’t even cross my mind. In fact, if I didn’t have the money, I just didn’t go out. Period.
So the question is this: At what point does generosity cross a line and become stupidity? In truthful moments, I have questioned the actions of my generous friends, and in some cases they admit it stems from unhappiness. If they have to plod their way through yet another week without a treat or something to look forward to, they would…they would…well they don’t know what they would do, but it would be bad. They lose the ability to maintain perspective through it all and can only see as far as the next day.
I understand that.
But…is my friend actually crippling the efforts of his ex to support their daughter by sending so much money that she becomes improperly dependent on it? Is he over-spoiling his friends by paying for dinner? I have already found that certain friends of his have learned to take his generosity for granted and he’s starting to fight feelings of inequality in their friendships, causing the friendship to suffer overall.
And are there not other ways to be generous that don’t send bank accounts further into the red?
At what point do these actions cross a line and become over-generous? And when it comes at the expense of our own financial health, is it generosity – or stupidity?