The Grace of Generativity: Chapter 2 {Grace of Yes Book Club}

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Welcome to the Grace of Yes Book Club! We’re reading Lisa Hendey’s new book, The Grace of Yes: Eight Virtues for Generous Living.

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This was perhaps the most difficult chapter for me to read (so of course it’s the one I’m asked to reflect on for the book club, go figure…), but think of it as difficult in a good way, the way growing pains are difficult.  I’m a sub-fertile woman who comes from a broken home, and I’m trying to create a cenacle hand-in-hand with a sub-fertile man who comes from a broken home of his own.

Grace isn’t something either of us knowingly grew up with or were told to expect much of from the doctors who have treated us over the years.  And yet, it’s there with us, simply because it is grace—both the unexpected, unasked for gift from God kind, and the sweating, fighting, rowing-against-each-other-but-at-least-we’re-still-rowing kind that constitutes a generous participation on our part in the life of Christ.

One coin, two sides, big payoff… but only if we’re not in it for the payoff in the first place.  Ah, the mystery that is grace.

Lisa never exactly comes right out and says so, but it seems that the grace of generativity is about living so generously that we make ourselves a light to shine on other’s paths to heaven.  Sure, it’s nice to love Jesus so much that we want to spend eternity with Him.

In reality, when we give Jesus our “yes,” we draw closer to His heart, and on His heart we see the names of the others He loves—our neighbors, especially our closest neighbors: spouse, children, friends.  A generous “yes” to each of those people means that we leave behind our selfish desires when we meet them.  We see others as unique gifts with their own unique struggles and destinies.  In a spouse, that might mean a private pain that we must offer to share, even if it means a new, unsought pain of our own.  In a child, that might mean watching as that child chooses a difficult path, whether avoidable or not. In a friend, that means being there even when we must surrender our own convenience or comfort in order to hold up a friend who is too tired to go on without us.

And with all of these, it might mean our generous love is rejected.

In this chapter, Lisa quotes her parents’s saying, “Never leave one good party in search of another.”  In a world gone crazy with dissatisfaction, this saying sounds like blasphemy.  However, it’s our faith that teaches the Truth: if we stick with each other just as Christ sticks with us all the way to the Cross, we will rise with Him, and so may any others that follow in His footsteps, even those who followed our footsteps to His.

Lisa points out that the grace of generativitiy is the gift we give of ourselves to the future, both by choice in how we love others now and by God’s help as He chooses to use us in ways we can’t imagine and won’t even get to see this side of the veil.  We don’t need to be from perfect homes or have perfectly fertile bodies to leave good gifts for the future.

Yes, that’s some serious grace.

To Ponder, Reflect, and Discuss:

  1. In Chapter Two, Lisa says, “My desire for the salvation of my soulmate is as great as my own hope in Jesus Christ.”  In relating with your spouse, what is your goal: feeling good in the here-and-now, or helping each other get to heaven?  What is one thing you can do today that might help your spouse see not just your desires but his or her eternal value in Christ’s eyes?
  2. In this chapter, Lisa speaks of the balance we need to “bend without breaking.”  Is your struggle more about keeping your world so straight in line with your insecurities that you won’t budge? Or is it about giving away so much of yourself that you don’t even bend—you just snap?  What is one thing you can do today that will help you give generously but also flexibly?
  3. Lisa invites us to examine how we love others including but also beyond our family.  In other words, “What kind of friend am I?”  Do you ever have trouble making godly friendships because you don’t trust others to love you back as an image of God?  What is one step you can make to reach out in trust of God today by trusting another?  How can you rely on God to help you when rejection comes your way?

Feel free to comment on your own thoughts from this week’s reading, your impressions and reflections, and/or your answers to these questions.

Next week, we’ll cover Chapter 3: The Grace of Creativity. For the complete reading schedule and information about our Book Club, visit the Grace of Yes Book Club page.

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Copyright 2014 Erin McCole-Cupp

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About Author

Erin McCole Cupp is a wife, mother, and lay Dominican who lives with her family of vertebrates somewhere out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. Her short writing has appeared in Canticle Magazine, The Catholic Standard and Times, Parents, The Philadelphia City Paper, The White Shoe Irregular, Outer Darkness Magazine, and the newsletter of her children’s playgroup. She is a contributor to CatholicMom.com and has been a guest blogger for the Catholic Writers Guild. Her other professional experiences include acting, costuming, youth ministry, international scholar advising, and waiting tables. When Erin is not writing, cooking or parenting, she can be found reading, singing a bit too loudly, sewing for people she loves, gardening in spite of herself, or dragging loved ones to visitors centers at tourist spots around the country. Find her books and other projects at her website.

44 Comments

  1. What a terrific reflection, Erin! I appreciate your openness about the difficultly of this chapter.

    On my blog today, I relfected a LOT on the unconditional love my husband shows toward me, and thinking about your questions makes me realize that I am growing a bit in that generous grace that means I desire my family’s salvation as much as my own. When I worry about my children and my husband, I worry about their eternal souls — not what someone else will think of a decision they have made or an action they have taken. It’s so hard to love people that way, though, because it means that if we are disappointed (that our desires don’t come to fruition) it hurts so terribly.

    • Thank, Christine. You’re rightt, and it doesn’t just hurt terribly–it can hurt eternally. Heavy stuff. And then we live in a culture where we’re not evey permited to be concerned about someone else’s eternal salvation, much less are we supposed to actually mention wanting to spend eternity with that someone else. So not only are we hurt, we’re supposed to be isolated in that hurt. Thank God we have places like CatholicMom.com and others where we can actively bear one another’s burdens!

  2. I too came across generativity as part of Erik Erikson’s work when Inwas in theology school. At that time I put together a mixtape that paired different songs from different genres with each psychosocial stage of development.
    In connection to this marvelous chapter I think of grace and generativity much like the ability to have musical skill and to pass that on to others whether it be to be to help carry a tune during a liturgy or long car ride or the more formal process of teaching a song, instrument or passing on the love of music to someone else.
    My wife, who grew up in the home of a band leader and jazz musician has quite the voracious collection of music (as did I), And I was pleasantly surprised that when we married and merged our collections, we had only one overlapping moment of our music: we had multiple copies of an Indigo Girls album.
    As an adult, I resonate much with how much my married life brings forth the best me out of the best of our coupled life in raising our child, in taking public actions, and in building our home and sharing our values. At the same time, being in an interfaith marriage (my wife is Jewish) I am also gently held in check from being too sure about the singularity of God’s presence and actions in our lives and am open to seeing God’s grace and other’s YESes to unfold in surprising ways.
    I look at our marriage as an incarnational sacrament that joins us to God: my daughter and I through membership in Christ’s Body to be sure, and my wife l chosen by God to bear this long history in her Jewish flesh.

    • “I am also gently held in check from being too sure about the singularity of God’s presence and actions in our lives and am open to seeing God’s grace and other’s YESes to unfold in surprising ways.” Jay, I was once married to a non-Catholic (he did “cross the Tiber,” but it literally took a miracle), and you have TOTALLY hit the nail on the head of the experience of faithful Catholics married to non-Catholics. It’s humbling but so richly hopeful! Thank you for putting that humble hope into words here!

  3. Sandi Belleque on

    I had never heard the word generativity before but now that we are empty nesters my husband and I have been talking about this. We want to give back in ways we couldn’t when our four children were young. How can we help more at church, pray more, support our neighbors and our nation? It’s actually nice to have that luxury of time that eluded us for the first 30 years of our marriage. We have been blessed with a great marriage, we are best friends and that makes planning the next 30 years a lot of fun. For me this book is so easy to relate to due to our similar ages and marriage. I admire you Erin for your sharing. My prayers to all of you for working so hard on this book club and sharing your talent of writing.

  4. Thanks for sharing this reflection, Erin. This chapter was at first hard to understand – mostly because I wasn’t familiar with the word, generativity, either. Reading your reflection helped – thanks. It’s about being generous in a way that will have “generational” fruits, even if we don’t get to see them. I think it’s “easy” to say we are generous, but I know for me, when I really stop and think about it, I am not as generous as I think. Yeah, I might “do” a lot, but that doesn’t make me generous if I’m only doing it out of an obligation. Lisa is challenging us to go further, be willing to be uncomfortable in our generosity.

    • Erika, if it helps, the word was new to me too. I understood the concepts related to generativity, but had never heard that term before. In my mind and at the point that I’m at in my life, it describes what I’m aiming for in my relationships very aptly. But ten years ago, I wasn’t here… And I don’t think being truly generous (as Jesus was) will EEEVVVEERRR feel “easy”. But we give God out best yes, right? At its heart, Chapter two is all about relationships and about giving our very best to those we love and to those who are waiting for our love – even the ones who may be unknown to us right now.

    • Erika, yeah, I totally hear you about how generous we *think* we are in comparison to how generous we *actually* are. Going one step further, I hate when I fall into that temptation to look at others who *look* less generous than I think I am and go totally pharisee on those publicans. Bleh. Blessed Teresa of Calcutta said, “Love does not measure. It just gives.” We’ll know our generosity is true when we stop measuring it, I think. Not saying I’m there yet, but at least a heroine in our faith like Bl. Teresa gives us a target saying.

  5. I just wanted to add that today I was the Lector for the First Reading today, which I thought went very well with this chapter and with a little adaptation the Gospel and the theme of generativity. I must admit that generativity is not an everyday term, though we do approach it in things like “paying it forward”, or “leaving a legacy” or “handing on to the next generation”

    Any way, the first reading: and Responsorial Psalm today were wonderful praises to woman as wife and mother, whose works “should be praised at the city gates”, who is to be cherished like fruitful trees with children like “olive plants about the table.”

    The Gospel’s basic message was each has been given talents and to whom much has been given, much will be expected. And to whom little was given and little (or actually nothing) was added, even that little will be taken away. But in terms of generativity, whether it is through handing on the faith to children, entering into loving relationships, or in whatever way we work to usher in the kingdom, we have been given a joyous gift to share as Good News, not something to simple bury in the ground and say, “Here Master, I have kept it safe.”

    Thanks be! To hear and to share all that each of you has to offer.

    • Hi Jay,
      I made this connection also, with the readings from today and Chapter 2, particularly the Gospel.
      I concluded that regardless of how much we are graced with we need to act upon that grace. Our talents, blessings, and graces are not to be hidden from the world. Rather they belong to the Lord and we are called to generously give those talents for His glory.
      Living the grace of generativity for me comes down to trust. Trusting that should I give so completely it is as He asks of me. And when I come to that unavoidable crossroad where opportunity for growth and stagnation intersect He is also there amidst my free will (Lord knows which path I will choose). This is a challenging grace to live up to. Cynicism is my survival mode.
      Gina

      • Yes, cynicism for survival! I relate so hard to that sentence, it’s embarrassing! And the funny thing is that I often think the opposite of generosity is stinginess, but after reading your comment, I think the opposite is actually cynicism–that “smart” kind of laziness that says, “Why bother giving? It won’t make a difference.” Thank you for that food for thought, so that I can identify my own dangerously cynical thoughts (of which I have many, alas).

  6. Samantha Hough on

    Oh, what an interesting time I had with the chapter for this week. I never spent a lot of time studying Erikson when I was going through my undergrad studies, so I too was unfamiliar with the term of generatively. Between the chapter itself and the reflections here, I was forced to take a pretty hard look at myself (which isn’t always fun!). For me, I always worry if I’m doing enough to weave this blanket of faith for my family. What is funny though, is all that worry is pointless. I have absolutely zero control over the salvation of my entire family. This is very difficult for me to swallow because I am a type A, control freak personality. That being said, what I AM in control of are my own actions. They say that actions speak louder than words. I do my best, though I may often fall short of what I’d like, to show Christ’s love for my husband and children through my every day actions. My hope is that through this, they will see Jesus’ love for them, and they will allow Him to draw them closer. In the meantime, I also pray. A lot.

    When I take a look at my social circle, I have a few close friends and a lot of acquaintances. I try to treat everyone with respect, but I’ll admit that sometimes I can be judgmental. One of the things that I’m working on with one particular individual in my life is to pray that I be given the ability to view this person as Christ sees them. This will be a challenge for quite some time, but I am faithful that as time goes on, my heart will be softened and allow me to put my preconceived notions of her behind me. In the meantime, as this relationship is still a work in progress, I’m really trying to just let it go and trust God to take care of it for me (again, difficult for the type A person!).

    • Samantha, aren’t we all fallen in our different ways? Type A control freaks, Type B sloth-maniacs… it doesn’t matter, we’re all fallen. Thank God He WANTS to raise us up! Thanks for commenting.

    • “One of the things that I’m working on with one particular individual in my life is to pray that I be given the ability to view this person as Christ sees them.” Amen to this!! Thank you so much for reading with us!

  7. Erica, thanks for the great reflection. This chapter didn’t stick with me the first time I read through The Grace of Yes, but it stuck the second time when I started journaling through the book. It made me think a lot about my relationship with my husband. We have been married 36 years and are empty nesters now, settling into a comfortable and quiet existence. But maybe TOO comfortable if you know what I mean–where you start to take each other for granted and forget to take advantage of those small moments when you can be together. One line in particular struck me, where Lisa mentioned the seventh commandment and how it means a lot more than committing adultery. It made me realize that I had become lax in being mindful of my husband. In little ways I am now trying to correct that. A couple of examples: last Saturday I was planning to see Lisa at the Paulist Media Center for her book signing and in keeping with my new vow not to do unnecessary work on Sundays, I wanted to get the food shopping done before I left to see her. Rich was going to run a small errand and suggested we go together. At first I said no because of the shopping but I then realized it was more in keeping with what Jesus would want (love over legalism) if I went with him. I did, and I got the shopping in too! On Sunday I helped out with the leaves in our yard as all the leaves shed at once and Rich was feeling overwhelmed; he had worked all afternoon Saturday on it and was feeling a big discouraged. I decided after church to go out and take my shot at it. He ended up joining me and we accomplished quite a bit together. I know he was grateful for the help. I am guessing God didn’t mind that I opted to help Rich rather than “rest” on Sunday. Those little actions that God prompts us to take really do make a difference!

  8. This chapter on the virtue of generativity touched me very personally. In it, Lisa talked about “the maternal instincts I knew I was sorely lacking at that age.” This is not easy for any mom to admit, because as moms we want to be the best we possibly can be for our children. And when we don’t “feel” motherly or are not sure what to do, it is very, very hard to go out on a limb and ask for help. Who would possibly understand? I am so grateful Lisa went out on that limb in chapter 2, because when I read her account of her early fears of being a mom, I breathed a sigh of relief, “I’m not the only one!” My husband became a dad the minute our first daughter was born. Something clicked in him that didn’t click in me. But I didn’t give up, and I slowly, but surely, grew into the mom God was calling me to be. And not just to my first child but also to the five children that followed her. I never, ever expected to be a mom of six! After all, I am an introverted only child! But I have to think that this plan for our family was God’s way of inviting me to say “yes” to Him, while breaking me out of my fears, comfort zone and lack of belief in myself. I still have moments when I feel completely overwhelmed and uncertain, but at the same time, I know this is God’s plan for my sanctification. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. I am far from perfect, and sometimes I can struggle with feelings of regret for not being a certain kind of mom. But I also know that God doesn’t want us living in the past. We need to be honest, real and hopeful for what is yet to come.

    I might not be quite at the point in my life where I am thinking of how to shape people besides my young children, but I think that’s probably where many of us begin with this virtue. Perhaps as I age and as my children grow, this virtue will expand. For now, I strive to give my kids the best, but with an emphasis on our Catholic Faith and the road that leads them to Heaven. For me, that is the most important thing I can give to them: a lasting legacy in Christ Jesus.

    Recently, our pastor gave a beautiful homily on the virtue of alacrity, our swiftness in responding to a need, specifically when it comes to using the talents God has given us. I think his homily ties in well with this chapter, because even though we may not feel like we have much to give, what’s more important is that we give. God isn’t as concerned about our abilities as He is about our availability. If we trust Him, and say, “yes,” with a kind of swiftness, He really will bless our efforts and fill in for what we might be lacking.

    I am really enjoying this book club and everyone’s unique perspectives on these virtues. I look forward to chapter 3, although I’m way ahead in my reading! (I can’t help it!)

    • OH Sarah, YOU are so not the only one who didn’t automatically get that motherly feeling. AND Yes as I read this today and in Lisa’s book I too thought, YEAH I’m not the only one. I still don’t always ‘feel’ maternal LOL — but hope that my love for them trumps the fresh baked cookies their friends moms may show me up with (hee hee)

    • “Recently, our pastor gave a beautiful homily on the virtue of alacrity, our swiftness in responding to a need, specifically when it comes to using the talents God has given us.”
      Intrigued by this!! So glad you’re reading with us Sarah!

  9. I am an instructor of future nurses and am dealing with generativity (a word with which nurses, especially instructors, are very familiar, as we use Erikson’s to help us appropriately care for patients) in a way others may not understand.
    My husband is an engineer and instructor of technicians for a federal agency. He is about to retire, just a little early (65 instead of 66.5), as he is tired of the bureaucracy. He wants me to stop working also, which would give us more freedom to accomplish some goals (creativity, service, travel, family, etc).
    I have been praying to discover if that is what God wants for me. I still have a lot to give students, and the students let me know that my teaching has made a positive difference for them and not only my teaching, but also my truly caring for them as people. However, I am also tired of the bureaucracies of colleges and hospitals.
    Both of us have spent our careers in developing the next generations. Is it time for us to move on? Especially as bureaucracy seems to hinder the ability to effectively teach.

    • ” Especially as bureaucracy seems to hinder the ability to effectively teach.”

      I think that is the main reason I shied away from teaching as a profession. There’s something to be gleaned here, though: what if we are open and saying “Yes” to generativity, but the world around us seems hell bent on stopping our gift? Is our gift of resistance to that a gift in of itself? I have no answers, but it’s certainly food for thought. Thanks for sharing!

      • Erin, I have wondered if continuing to teach, “swimming against the tide” as it were, is what I am to do. I appreciate that you understand the bureaucracy issue.
        That brings up another point–when I was Protestant, my ministry of nursing was never recognized as “work for the Lord.” But then, no profession (VOCATION) was, which always struck me as short-sighted. The only effective evangelization is “walking the walk,” which can only be done by others seeing something in you that they want for themselves, done in the context of everyday life.

  10. Mary Lou Rosien on

    Generativity was one of my favorite chapters!! This concept is actually one of the core beliefs my husband and I share. We have always had a picture in our heads of what we wanted our family to grow into both spiritually and practically. We measure our choices against that ideal. Loved learning about Lisa’s evolution as a woman, wife and parent. So grateful that she has shared this knowledge with her readers. She continues to inspire me in my own evolution!! My favorite line, “Instead, lasting generativity takes self-interest out of the equation.”

  11. Thanks for a most thoughtful review of Chapter 2, Erin! I have been assigned to review the final chapter of Lisa’s book, and I, too, feel like it was hand-picked by the Holy Spirit for me.

    Regarding Question #1: During a recent conversation with a friend, she casually made the comment, “There is no one who prays harder for me than my spouse.” I was blown away by that — because I don’t think I could say the same for myself. Do I pray harder than everyone else for my spouse? There are a lot of people who pray for him and our family daily. My friend’s comment was the poke I needed and I vowed then to begin praying harder for my husband.

  12. “The grace of generativity is about living so generously that we make ourselves a light to shine on other’s paths to heaven.” Erin, I loved this line from your reflection. What a beautiful explanation of Lisa’s very thought provoking chapter!!

  13. Sandi Belleque on

    Sarah and Allison–I had forgotten about Lisa’s comment on being a mom. I found myself with three little ones and very bored. I had a sister who just loved being a mom. She and I would walk and spend time together (thus our children are best friends now as adults). When my fourth child arrived I had finally embraced the joy of being a mom and appreciated the gift of being able to stay home with them. I share that with new moms and they always say they are glad to know they aren’t alone.

    • Sandi, I think that there are more of us that have felt this way than we realize… a great reason to support and encourage young moms, which is a truly generative activity for us more “seasoned” moms!

  14. Wow! This chapter had many wows for me. It also made me reflect on how I can change instead of trying to change my husband or son. Maybe I should live everyday like its my last and be there for them…seeing the good and not always the bad. My husband and I have been through a rough year. I don’t think that Sarah choosing Nov. 18 as the day of “yes” was a coincidence, that’s my wedding anniversary. So this book as been a helpful compass on how to express my yes daily…not just when I’m in the mood.
    I see the Lord healing my marriage and family but opening my eyes to why I should say yes everyday!

  15. Late to this, but didn’t want to move to today’s discussion without popping in here. It’s so valuable reading everyone’s comments. My husband is in the process of “reverting” . His remaining stumbling block is confession, and because of this he does not participate in the Eucharist. I want to help him in every way I can to take those steps back to full communion, but I feel frustrated that it hasn’t happened yet. When I think of the yes , this helps me realize that I can offer my stories, answer his questions to the best of my ability, and keep planting those seeds, but ultimately his return won’t be because of anything I do, it’s all God. I guess I have to keep being open to and recognizing the opportunities to cooperate as they arise .

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