There is a constant refrain from humanity for things to be “better” or for there to be “more”. We want better jobs. We want a better economy. We want a better church. We want a better marriage. We want more teachers. We want better teachers. We want better schools. We want better roads. We want better healthcare. This list is endless. The dilemma is that “more” and “better” are relative terms. Each person’s idea of what “more” or “better” looks like is just as endless as the list of needed improvements so much so that it is nearly impossible to reach a consensus. Aside from that, the true rub of the issue with “more” and “better”. is that there is always a cost involved. Very few of us want to bear the burden of the costs for the things that we want better.
Sometimes the cost is financial – a straightforward money issue. At other times though, it seriously tips the expenses scale by requiring our involvement (time) or personal change. Most often what people mean when they say they want “more” of something or they want something to be “better” is that they want change without cost. We can have higher paying jobs, but someone has to pay for that. We can have better roads, but someone has to pay for that. We can have more entitlement programs or more teachers, but someone has to pay for that. We can have a better marriage, but there is cost involved in that. It is a rare instance when someone says they are willing to pay the cost involved, especially when someone other than themselves directly benefits. People want entitlements taken away – except the ones they are getting (and we all receive some type of entitlement benefit, it is not just welfare). We want others to pay their “fair share” of taxes or the other bracket to go up instead of ours. We want our spouse to change, but we rarely look introspectively at the things we must change. We want better children’s programs or facilities at church but we expect others to step up instead of us making the sacrifice. There is no such thing as “more” or “better” without some type of sacrifice.
I myself want more of certain things and for other things to be better. In my experience I have found two specific things to be very beneficial in achieving “more” or “better”. They both go hand in hand, and neither work very well when forced. Our world would change for the good if each of us could practice these principles regularly.
Learn To Sacrifice
Sacrifice can be painful. Sacrifice is defined as “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.” Sacrifice does not mean we get anything of value in return. It means that we are giving up something for something that we consider to be more worthy or important. Sometimes that is the good of a marriage or business. Other times it is for the good of others, some of whom we do not know or will never meet. Instead of looking to other people to make the sacrifices, maybe we should determine what we are willing to sacrifice to achieve the things that we desire to see better.
Sacrifice may involve resources, but it may also require our time, talents or energy. Sacrifice helps us determine what the most important things in life are. It allows us to find the things of ultimate value to our lives and then focus on those things. It is very difficult to convince anyone that something is important if we are unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices. Family, business, church, health. Many people say these things are important but we are often unwilling to make the necessary sacrifices for them to rise to the place they need. Better schools and education are not solved with memes and social media rants. They are solved by sacrifice, both of resources and time. We also must be careful not to make sacrifice, or the next principle of generosity, only about money. Financial resources are often part of the sacrificial solution, but rarely is it the full solution.
Generosity does not typically come naturally to us. It is something that can become a habit if we learn to practice it. Unfortunately our tendency is to remain selfish and force things like generosity. We allow the government to force us into helping others and then we complain because it is wasted. I have found that personal generosity pays much greater dividends than forced generosity or sacrifice through avenues such as taxes. When I regularly practice generosity, both with my financial resources and my time and talent, it brings an appreciation into my own life for the things with which I have been blessed. The joy I experience through regular generosity is uplifting to my spirit. I not only get to experience that giving really is better than receiving, but I frequently get to experience the joy of those who are receiving my generosity.
Generosity does not have to be elaborate or practiced on some grand scale. It can be achieved by giving even the smallest of things to someone or something. It can be as simple as paying for a meal for someone behind us in the drive thru or being a tutor for someone trying to learn the gift of reading. Helping someone learn to read or learn a skill truly could change their life and bring rewards far exceeding your initial expectations. Being generous does not just change others, it also changes us. You may find that the greatest beneficiary of your generosity is you.
There is no harm in wanting things “better” or wanting “more” of something. Those are often admirable goals. The reality is that each of those come with a cost. It requires us to learn to sacrifice and to be generous. If each of us could learn to live a generous, sacrificial life, we would most likely find there would be much less to complain about either because the problems were being solved, or sacrifice and generosity had changed our attitude and perspective about the issue. Let’s all strive to have more and get better, but let’s learn to do it with sacrificial generosity.