By Desmond Tutu
I think that almost all of us are surprised how our joy is enhanced when we make someone else happy. You know, you go to town, you’ve gone to do some shopping, and when you get back home you have a bunch of flowers for Rachel. She wasn’t expecting them, and the glow of her face and the joy that comes from having made another person joyful is something that you can’t actually compute. So it is in giving that we receive. So I would hope that people would recognize in themselves that it is when we are closed in on ourselves that we tend to be miserable. It is when we grow in a self-forgetfulness—in a remarkable way I mean we discover that we are filled with joy.
I’ve sometimes joked and said God doesn’t know very much math, because when you give to others, it should be that you are subtracting from yourself. But in this incredible kind of way—I’ve certainly found that to be the case so many times—you gave and it then seems like in fact you are making space for more to be given to you.
And there is a very physical example. The Dead Sea in the Middle East receives fresh water, but it has no outlet, so it doesn’t pass the water out. It receives beautiful water from the rivers, and the water goes dank. I mean, it just goes bad. And that’s why it is the Dead Sea. It receives and does not give. And we are made much that way, too. I mean, we receive and we must give. In the end generosity is the best way of becoming more, more, and more joyful.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu is a South African Anglican cleric who in 1984 received the Nobel Prize for Peace for his role in the opposition to apartheid in South Africa. This passage was taken from: The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World by the Dalai Lama, Desmond Tutu, and Douglas Carlton Abrams