The Paradox of Generosity: Giving We Receive, Grasping We Lose

By Christian Smith, Hilary Davidson
Determining why, when, and to whom people feel compelled to be generous affords invaluable insight into positive and problematic ways of life. Organ donation, volunteering, and the funding of charities can all be illuminated by sociological and psychological perspectives on how American adults conceive of and demonstrate generosity. Focusing not only on financial giving but on the many diverse forms generosity can take, Christian Smith and Hilary Davidson show the deep impact-usually good, sometimes destructive- that giving has on individuals. The Paradox of Generosity is the first study to make use of the cutting-edge empirical data collected in Smith's groundbreaking, multidisciplinary, five-year Science of Generosity Initiative. It draws on an extensive survey of 2,000 Americans, more than sixty in-depth interviews with individuals across twelve states, and analysis of over 1,000 photographs and other visual materials. This wealth of evidence reveals a consistent link between demonstrating generosity and leading a better life: more generous people are happier, suffer fewer illnesses and injuries, live with a greater sense of purpose, and experience less depression. Smith and Davidson also show, however, that to achieve a better life a person must practice generosity regularly-random acts of kindness are not enough. Offering a wide range of vividly illustrative case studies, this volume will be a crucial resource for anyone seeking to understand the true impact and meaning of generosity.

"The Paradox of Generosity is a winner. It's a terrific book full of interesting and important data and insights and, more important, meaningful lessons for each of us and for all of us. Parents should make this book required reading for their adult children as a roadmap to greater happiness, health, and purpose in life." --Jack Brennan, Chairman Emeritus, The Vanguard Group

"'It is a sociological fact: by giving ourselves away, we flourish!' Smith and Davidson provide data to support the truth of that statement as they unpack the rich learnings of Notre Dame's 'Science of Generosity Initiative.' A must read for scholars, health professionals, nonprofit leaders, fundraisers, religious practitioners. But more: it written for anyone who in their giving and living want to live well and make a difference." --William G. Enright, Director of the Lake Institute on Faith & Giving, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indiana University

..".compelling and well-researched... the book argues that the regular practice of being generous with our money, time, and relationships enhances happiness." --Publishers Weekly

..".[Fascinating]... I'm grateful for [the authors'] extensive research and careful presentation of the results. The charts, data, and lengthy interviews found in The Paradox of Generosity should satisfy skeptics and scholars. They have employed the language of academia to describe in new ways something that has always been true: That generosity feels good, and is good for you..." --Englewood Review of Books

"Smith and Davidson paint a rich portrait of the generous and ungenerous family, using excellent data." --CHOICE

"This is a cogent, clearly written book that deftly weaves theoretical concepts and quantitative data into an intriguing account of generosity and how, precisely, it facilitates health, happiness, and purpose in life." --American Journal of Sociology


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About the Hardcover

Publisher Oxford University Press, USA
Publish date 09/01/2014
Pages 280
ISBN-13 9780199394906
ISBN-10 0199394903
Language English