How does science explain generosity ?

Updated: Nov 25, 2019


One of our main goals in life is to develop divine virtues to the point of perfection through a lifetime of conscious effort, until the day we go to the other world with goodly characters —

“To give and to be generous are attributes of Mine; well is it with him that adorneth himself with My virtues.” — Bahá’u’lláh.

Among these characteristics there is an extraordinary one called “generosity”. Often the public perception is that generosity is inherent and only some individuals are born generous. However, according to research published by the University of Notre Dame: “Generosity is a learned character trait that involves both attitude and action.” Therefore, the assumption that people were born with generosity is unsubstantiated, but in our society today people are reluctant to give generosity a real chance to develop.


With the modernisation of computer technology and Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), scientists have recently discovered new information about how the brain reacts to generosity. Scientific studies have discovered that human happiness, health, and overall life quality are closely connected to generosity, whether through monetary contributions or service. “The feel-good effects of giving begin in the brain. It’s called ‘Giver’s Glow’,” says Stephen Post, Director of the Centre for Medical Humanities, Compassionate Care and Bioethics at New York’s Stony Brook University. “The response is triggered by brain chemistry in the mesolimbic pathway, which recognizes rewarding stimuli. The attitude with which we give

determines the impact of our generosity. If it is meaningful donations, it can have a significant impact,” says Dr. Post, “but if it’s trivial or just grudging, probably not”.


Scientists have also discovered that the same elements of the brain that control bonding and trust also control generosity. When members of a community give generously to a meaningful cause with an attitude of sacrifice, they will eventually bond, develop trust, and become unified within their own community — we have continuously witnessed this in our own Bahá’í community. This could perhaps be one of the many reasons that Universal Participation is encouraged towards the Bahá’í Funds:

“The universal participation of the believers in every aspect of the Faith — in contributing to the Fund, in teaching, deepening, living the Bahá’í life, administering the affairs of the community, and, above all, in the life of prayer and devotion to God — will endow the Bahá’í community with such strength that it can overcome the forces of spiritual disintegration which are engulfing the non- Bahá’í world, and can become an ocean of oneness that will cover the face of the planet.” - The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 178

‘Abdu’l-Bahá says:

“Until a being setteth his foot in the plane of sacrifice, he is bereft of every favour and grace; and this plane of sacrifice is the realm of dying to the self, that the radiance of the living God may then shine forth.”

Generous giving assists us to acquire certain characteristics that we could never imagine gaining otherwise. We know through the writings that exaltation of a human being in this world is through generously offering his time, energy, knowledge, and financial resources to the same world that offered it to him.


Conclusively, generosity is a state of consciousness where we unexpectedly enter and realise that all our possessions are actually the physical things of this material world that were provided to us generously through the grace of God. Therefore, as we practice generosity, we

are not giving our belongings to anyone, but rather returning what God has granted us back to Him!

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