When Is Generosity Not So Good?

Question: A seemingly generous friend, upon hearing feedback from mutual friends, often offers gifts of food that he does not really want, that is either about to expire or has slightly turned in colour. He also gives (or rids) other stuff that are somewhat damaged, due to dread of creating negative karma by discarding (or wasting) what is still usable. Are these good habits?

Answer: If he did inform the recipient about the possible lower quality of the food before giving, it is alright. If not, it is dangerous. To intentionally expose others to potential health hazards without warning creates some negative karma. Of course, it would be even better that he gives better food, to not offer anything dangerous at all, even if the recipient is alright with taking it.

Likewise, it is alright to give other deficient items after informing accordingly, but it is better still, to give them before being damaged, or to repair them first. That badly damaged is better recycled. To intentionally conceal what might be of concern to the recipient, so that the person will accept the defective does carries some element of deceit, which breaks the fourth precept of abstaining from false speech. This too creates negative karma.

Your friend’s current habits of practising generosity are thus imperfect, a mix of both the good and the bad, due to the above. He should work to lessen the bad part and increase the good part! True generosity gives to the recipient what is needed and good enough, out of compassion and wisdom. It gives not what the giver does not need and is not good enough, out of personal convenience that might inconvenience others.

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