The Gift of Giving
About the Guest
Businessman John Stanley, creator of the Generosity Gameplan®, recalls his upbringing and the thrifty stepfather who taught him how to live a generous life. Stanley believes many of us aren't more generous because we measure generosity by how much money we give away, rather than seeing ourselves as a funnel God can use to bless others.
John Stanley believes many of us aren’t more generous because we measure generosity by how much money we give away, rather than seeing ourselves as a funnel God can use to bless others.
The Gift of Giving
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, December 12th.
Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.
The famous line from the 1980’s movie, “Greed is good”—John Stanley wants us to rethink that. Stay with us.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Monday edition.
I think we are talking about something today that, for most of us, doesn’t come naturally.
Dennis: Well now, wait a second. Would you consider yourself to be a generous person?
Bob: I think, at the core—
Dennis: Pretty selfish?
Bob: I think at the core I want to make sure that I’m covered before I’m going to take care of anybody else.
Dennis: Let’s ask our guest. Let’s see if he was born a generous boy. John Stanley joins us on FamilyLife Today; John, what about it?
John: Not a chance.
Not a chance was I born generous.
Bob: We’re all fundamentally selfish, aren’t we?
John: Yes, I think we are born wired with self-interest.
Dennis: I think that’s the case.
Well, John Stanley has written a book called Connected for Good: A Game Plan for a Generous Life. You may be saying, “Now wait a second; I don’t have a lot of money.” You don’t have to have a lot of money to be generous.
In fact, John has some great ideas for you to have some competition in your marriage to out give your spouse. We’ll talk about that in a minute.
John is married to Jamie and has been since 1981; he has two adult children, lives in Wisconsin, and gives leadership to the legacy group, and consults with people all over the country around the subject of giving.
I want to go back to this topic that we’re talking about here, how you became a generous man, because you describe yourself today as a generous man, right?
John: I do. Yes.
Dennis: You had a stepfather who had a great impact in your life, and his name was Ed Toogood.
John: It’s true.
I love that last name.
Bob: Sounds too good to be true.
John: You know, honestly, this is a man who came into my life when I was 12. My mother was a widow—my father died when I was five—and she was a war-bride, a World War II bride, and she had been a single mom with my sister and I for about seven years. She met this man at church. He was a 45-year bachelor when he met my mother, and he had no idea how to be a father to a son.
Dennis: Kind of both you and he grew up together, him learning how to be a dad, you learning how to be a son.
John: Yes; it’s true. Yes.
Dennis: He was training you the whole time, and you described him as being thrifty, but you also described him as teaching you a lot about generosity.
John: Yes. You know, he just had this spirit about him as he gave to me as his stepson that, as I look back—oftentimes we look back in life to discover most about our parents, and I found in these reflections a very, very generous soul with me, because he was trying so hard, and it came so unnaturally for him, right? So this generosity he shared with me, from himself, giving of himself, being present to me, trying so hard, was a real act of generosity. He taught me that being present is a great act of generosity.
Dennis: And you described a letter that he wrote you as young man while you were in college. I could tell this was pretty powerful to you emotionally.
John: He could put in writing things that he couldn’t share face to face. It was the words and the sense of belonging that I had to him, that I always wanted to hear. So I really became his son, not his stepson, when I read that letter and our relationship started to change.
Dennis: I want you to comment on something here.
We all three confessed at the beginning of the broadcast that we’re not generous, because we’re selfish, but beyond that, why aren’t we more generous with our lives, John?
John: Lots of reasons for that. I think one of the reasons that’s so apparent to we Americans is that we measure generosity by how much money we give away, and by how much time we give away as volunteers. We see that as two currencies, I like to say, that diminish when we give them away.
So, as Americans especially, we’re trying to fill our buckets, right, and we’re just continually filling our buckets, and instead of filling a funnel that God can use we just keep filling a bucket and hold on to it. So we’re not generous because we want to accumulate, and the more we have the more secure we think we are, and it’s not true.
Bob: There’s something in the culture that says accumulation is where happiness comes from, it’s where power comes from; the “haves” live a better life than the “have nots.” Is that what’s fueling us to be accumulators?
John: Yes. There’s something that I’ve figured out through working with many, many generous people in the country. I really haven’t figured it—let me start here—I really haven’t figured out how to help a person who is not generous become generous. But I have figured out how to help a person who is already generous get more clear and confident about how they want to express generosity. Then those generous lives tend to explode.
There are two qualities—two characteristics, let’s say—that I’ve seen consistently time after time after time of those people who take their lives to a very, very generous place. The first is they have a sense of gratitude, and the second is they have margin.
They have some margin in their lives of time or capacity of some kind. Margin has nothing to do with how many zeros you have in your bank account. It’s a sense that you get, and I think it’s a God-given sense that’s born out of a sense of gratitude.
You start answering the question, “Well, you know, I think I have enough.” That’s a really hard question to answer, how much is enough, right? Yes. So once you have a sense of gratitude, then you can move to this posture of, “I think I might have enough,” and all of a sudden you have margin and you can be generous.
Bob: When people who—and I think it’s fascinating that you say that you haven’t figured out how to get people who aren’t generous to become generous, and I want to explore that a little bit—but when people who do have some impulse toward generosity, you look at the needs in our world today, you can become overwhelmed pretty quickly by the needs, to where you want to shut down because you don’t feel like the little bit that any of us is able to do can really make a dent in anything.
John: Yes. One of the things I’ve discovered, Bob, is that if you will—if we—will think about the currencies with which we can be generous as more than just our money and more than just the limited time we have to volunteer, we can think about them in a little bit different ways, and here’s what I mean by that. The first currency—the most undervalued currency, that we all have—is our relational currency; our relational equity, you might call it. Being present to one another in a real, intentional way.
So when Dennis builds a relational bridge between Bob and John, for Bob’s and John’s benefit, not Dennis’s, that’s an act of generosity that Dennis should count when he puts his head on his pillow tonight. So it’s not only line 19 on Dennis’s tax return that measures his generosity, right?
So, building connections between two people for their benefit, not your own, is a powerful and undervalued act of generosity.
Dennis: You say in your book that most of us as human beings have about 150 potential friends or relationships that we connect with.
John: Yes. If you will think about that network that you have, those 150 friends, and just take ten of them and try to discern what they might have in common—challenge, opportunity, interest—and intentionally build a bridge between those two people, that’s an act of generosity. The more we do that, the more relationships we have, so it has a multiplier effect when we spend that currency.
Dennis: Give us an illustration of how you’ve done that in your life.
John: There’s an eighth-grade girl—this is several years ago—in the core of Milwaukee who I built a relationship with one of my young adult counselors that used to work for me.
That young adult, young woman, brought her two or three friends to befriend this young African-American girl in the core of Milwaukee, and helped her build a picture of her future that included three things: it included graduating from high school and getting pregnant after she got married. See, that eighth grade girl now has done those three things, and she got them in the right order, and the chance of her living in poverty went down 90 percent because of the way those young adult women spent their relational currency.
John: They didn’t spend a dime on this young girl; they just spent themselves.
So spending ourselves is a way to spend our relational currency, and it’s the first and most important generosity currency.
Bob: You look like, at some point in your life, you may have been a runner, or are currently a runner.
John: A cyclist, yes.
Bob: So, I’m told by people who do these kinds of things, that there is a point that you come to in running, or maybe even in cycling, where the endorphins go off and you have this euphoria.
Have you experienced that as a cyclist?
John: Not as an athlete.
John: Yes. Not as an athlete, no.
Bob: The reason I ask is because you say when it comes to generosity there’s a point that some generous people get to where it’s like the endorphins go off; there’s a transformational quality about their generosity that kind of kicks them into a whole new stratosphere of generosity.
John: Yes, and the only time that happens, that I’ve seen it happen, is when a person has connected their acts of generosity to their heart’s desire. So it’s not a reacting in a transactional way to a request, as most of our “generous acts” are, but it’s discovering what this God-implanted heart’s desire is and acting on that in a generous way. That’s when the endorphins, I would think, kick in, and that’s when folks figure out, “Wow, do I have margin.”
Bob: Can you think of somebody where you’ve seen them kind of get to that level and all of a sudden life has been revolutionized for them?
John: Many. Gordon Hartman is a beautiful example in San Antonio. Gordon is a friend and a homebuilder for many years. He has a special needs daughter. As a homebuilder, he was connected to every charitable activity in San Antonio and every capital campaign, and he was—lots and lots and lots of requests. It dawned on him one time that his generosity game plan had less to do with the latest capital campaign at the local charity and more to do with Morgan, his special needs daughter.
So he leveraged all of his gifts, all of his strengths, right—his property development and his political connections and his capital connections—to buy a large, abandoned piece of property that was a gravel pit—a sand pit, I think.
He used all of these connections as a master planner to create a center called Morgan’s Wonderland, and it’s the—as of four or five years ago—the only theme park for special needs kids.
So he poured himself into his heart’s desire for special needs kids. All of a sudden what happened to him and his community is that all the other requests he was getting— “Will you sit on my board?” “Will you be chair of my campaign?”—people kind of figured, “That’s out of his wheelhouse. He’s into special needs kids now; he’s not into my local Catholic high school.”
Dennis: You also say in your book—and this is, I think, tying into this idea of relational equity, friendships that you have, people that you know that you can connect with others—you say that isolation is the enemy of generosity.
John: It is indeed.
Dennis: What you may or may not know, because I don’t know if you and your wife Jamie have been to the Weekend to Remember marriage getaway, but the conference, the Weekend to Remember, is built around the theme that every marriage is either moving toward oneness or it’s moving toward isolation. It’s the law of the universe.
Dennis: Oneness happens as two people come together; isolation happens when two people spin out of control and gradually move apart.
Bob: And that’s the natural drift.
Bob: Unless you’re intentional about pursuing relationship and oneness, you’re just naturally going to move toward isolation.
John: I’d say a couple of things about that. First I’d say that, for a healthy couple, there’s a contest in generosity. That’s being intentional with each other to be generous with one another in giving of one’s self and all the currencies that we talk about.
Dennis: Don’t move past that too fast. Unpack that contest, if you would, because I think this is a great idea.
John: Yes. So, this is actually a Diane Sawyer quote that great relationships—I think she said great marriages, actually, at one point—“great marriages are a contest in generosity.” She’s absolutely right. I go a step farther, and I say great relationships are a contest in generosity. So if you take it out of marriage and get to friendships—but let’s go back to marriage for a minute.
It is absolutely true that when Jamie and I are trying to serve one another, we might say, in a Christian context, those are acts of generosity.
Bob: You know, the principle you’re talking about, for years the verse that I guess if I had a life verse I would say this is the one that’s marked my life. It’s Philippians 2:3, that says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit.”
And boy, I can be consumed with selfishness and empty conceit on a moment’s notice, right?
John: For sure.
Bob: Do nothing from those, “but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.” It goes on to say, don’t look out for your own interest, but also for the interest of others.
I’ve told couples for years, “If you can apply those two verses in your marriage to where the only conflict you have is, “No, you’re important than me—” “No, you’re more important than me.” If you’re arguing about the fact that the other one’s more important, then maybe you’re at a healthy place in your marriage, where you’re trying to outdo one another in giving to one another.
Who wrote the book Love Languages?
Dennis and Bob: Gary Chapman.
John: Gary Chapman. When Jamie and I read that book I discovered her love language. She has a very annoying love language. It’s service.
So I can give her—
Dennis: It’s hard to fake service, isn’t it?
John: I can give her a shoulder massage, or I can do all kinds of things, and it just comes across as, “blah, blah, blah.”
But when I make her coffee in the morning before she gets up, she gets up and kind of tilts her head and says, “He loves me.”
Or when I fill her car up with gas, “He loves me.” Oh my goodness.
But yes, that’s a way to be generous with Jamie, is to serve her love language.
Dennis: Paul writes in Second Corinthians chapter nine, “The point is this—” When Paul says, “The point is this,” you better listen.
Bob: Whatever’s next.
Dennis: “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has made up his mind, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver, and God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all time, you may abound in every good work.”
That passage is loaded with commands and with promises, and it’s some kind of intertwined connection around us obeying God and being generous and sowing abundantly, and then enjoying the endorphins, as Bob was talking about earlier.
John: Yes. That’s a real challenge, what Paul’s trying to teach us there. My experience has been that fear grips us and is manifest in, “I don’t have enough, and if I give this away,” whatever “this” is, “I will have less.”
So it’s really fear that keeps us from fully embracing what Paul’s trying to teach here. It’s because most of us are only thinking about our money connected to generosity, and we haven’t answered the question, “How much is enough?”
Bob: You know, you stop and think about this ministry. This ministry would not exist if it weren’t for a lot of people who have been amazingly generous, and many of them generous as volunteers. It goes beyond those who support us financially to those who have caught the vision of what FamilyLife is all about and said, “That’s worth me investing some of my life in.”
Dennis: If I might just be able to say thank you. Thank you for standing with us. These are challenging days to be leading a ministry to marriage and family in this country.
John: These people that you’re thanking right now, it began with your heart’s desire, as I point at both of you. A heart’s desire can’t be delegated, but other people can catch it. That’s really what the people that you’re talking about have done, is that they caught this heart’s desire that you have, and turns out that they have the same heart’s desire.
Until someone connects with that God-given heart’s desire, this notion of being generous is a very transactional thing.
Dennis: We want to talk about how to move it from being transactional to transformational.
Bob: Well, and that’s something you do talk about in your book, Connected for Good: A Game Plan for a Generous Life. I’d encourage our listeners—this is a subject that as a husband and wife you ought to explore, and just ask the question, “What is going to be our GQ as a couple, or as a family—our generosity quotient? Is this something that we want to be aggressive with, or do we want to be just something we can check off a box and say, ‘We’re doing what we think we ought to be doing’?”
This is a book that will challenge you, and hopefully what we’ve talked about today has been challenging for you as well.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com to order a copy of John Stanley’s book Connected for Good: A Game Plan for a Generous Life.
You can order from us online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to order.
Again, the website FamilyLifeToday.com, and the number is 1-800-358-6329. 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word “TODAY”.
Happy anniversary today to Raymond and Tenecia Williams, who live San Leandro, California. It was 18 years ago today that the Williams became husband and wife, and we just wanted to give them a shout-out today here on FamilyLife Today.
All year long we’ve been celebrating our 40th anniversary as a ministry, and we’ve been doing it by just spending time reflecting on the hundreds of thousands—even the millions—of lives that have been touched through this ministry over the last four decades. In fact, there are couples who this year are celebrating anniversaries who would not have anniversaries to celebrate if it weren’t for FamilyLife.
That’s why we think of ourselves as the proud sponsor of anniversaries.
We’re grateful for those of you who share our burden to see every home become a godly home, to see moms and dads and husbands and wives ordering their family around what the Bible teaches. We’re grateful for your partnership as legacy partners, or for those of you who give occasionally.
I know there are a lot of folks who consider year-end giving, and if you’re one of those people who has thought about a possible year-end donation to FamilyLife, let me encourage you; if God’s used this ministry in your life this year, it’s a great way to say thank you by making a donation. And there’s an additional incentive right now for you to make a donation. We’ve had some friends who have put together a matching gift fund, and our friend Michelle Hill is here today to give us an update on the matching gift fund and how donations are doing.
Michelle: We are encouraged by the number of listeners we’re hearing from here in the middle of the month, folks who are going online…or who are calling…or who are mailing in donations to support the ministry as we wrap up 2016.
As you said Bob we’ve got this matching gift fund in place so every time a listener gives a donation this month that donation is going to be effectively tripled. So, if you wanted to give a one hundred dollar donation to FamilyLife at the end of the year, that would release two hundred dollars from the matching gift fund and make the total gift 300 dollars.
Now Bob, so far in December we’ve heard from two thousand and ninety eight listeners, and that’s great! And, they’ve given four hundred fifteen thousand, six hundred seventy five dollars, which is also great. Now, the match goes up to one and quarter million dollars, so we still have a ways to go to take advantage of all of the benefit in that matching gift fund, so we really hope our listeners will make a donation today.
Bob: And it’s easy to do. You can donate online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to donate, or you can mail your donation to us at FamilyLife Today at Box 7111, Little Rock, Arkansas. Our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow we’re going to spend some more time talking about different ways we can be generous. It’s not all about giving money. John Stanley is going to be back with us tomorrow, and I hope you can tune in for our conversation.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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