The other day I watched the movie Bandidas with Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz. Knowing that Hayek and Cruz are good friends and seem to have a great time together, I was curious to hear them narrate the director’s cut. When listening to it, I immediately noticed what a generous spirit Penelope Cruz had toward others, especially her friend Salma. Penelope told a story about how kind Salma was to her when she first arrived in the United States from Spain. When Salma had a different recollection of the days certain shots were filmed, Penelope deferred her argument. Several times Penelope allowed Salma to take center stage and exclaimed things such as, “Salma, look how small your waist is!” This seemed to me to be a wonderful, yet simple, example of generosity of spirit.
For some of us being generous with our money and time is much less difficult than being generous of spirit. Maybe we don’t want someone else to get more credit or attention than we think they deserve. Maybe we think someone doesn’t deserve forgiveness, compassion, or kindness. We become stingy.
This stinginess of spirit comes from fear. We might fear that if they are the pretty one we won’t also be acknowledged, appreciated, and loved. We fear that if they are recognized for their work, then we won’t be recognized for ours. We believe there isn’t enough to go around. We may also believe that if we don’t police the universe with our disapproval then our choices in our world will become less valued.
The truth is, and we probably know this intuitively, that when we celebrate others’ successes, we win along with them. When we acknowledge their abundance, we also acknowledge riches for ourselves.
Many of my female coaching clients say that they would like to have girlfriends but their friendships with women often are competitive or unsupportive. When we are generous of spirit with our friends, as Salma and Penelope seem to be, (I also remember Salma being sincerely excited for Penelope to be nominated for an Academy Award for her role in Volver), we base our friendships on love rather than fear. Love is a solid foundation for any relationship.
When we base our friendships on fear we end up with “frienemies”. Frienemies are friends who also seem to be enemies. We sense they might enjoy seeing us fail. A frienemy has mixed feelings toward us and sees us as a threat to their success and happiness.
It is also important to be generous of spirit with those we don’t know well or at all. This might take the form of being slower to judge or not to judge at all. We may give the crabby cashier the benefit of the doubt. We might choose to think that just maybe they are having a bad day, maybe they are suffering from a loss, or maybe they are having the same struggles as we are. It is amazing how much being extra kind to someone who is not being terrific to us can remedy a situation. When kindness alchemizes a situation from unpleasant to sweet, then we experience what can feel like a miracle.
Without question, the world can be an unfriendly and cold place to live. Encouraging others around us so that they can shine is a gift that we all can offer each other. In fact, is there really a better gift to extend? When we remember that it is more important to extend love than to be number one or front and center, we express our belief in the importance of being generous of spirit.