What Does It Mean to Share?

I’ve been thinking a lot about sharing lately. What does it mean to share? In particular, what is the difference between sharing and generosity?

As owning-class people, we can be very generous but not be able to share. When you are generous, you give something to someone. When you share, you split what you have and give some portion of it to someone else. To be generous you do not have to give up anything. You can give a generous donation that gets you a large tax break so that you make money in the process of giving it. You can generously let others use your home while you still maintain ownership of it.

To share, you have to give up something. If you share your home with someone, he or she owns half. To share, I have to give up something of mine that I want. If I have extra jelly beans,1 don’t want to eat them, know that I can get more for free, and give a friend some jelly beans, that is generous. If I have ten and give a friend five though I wished I could eat all ten, that is sharing.

As people raised owning class, how does the ability to share get taken away from us? I think you can only share if you have some faith that people will share back with you. Because many of us grew up in families in which the adults put their self-interests before the needs of their children, we have become confused. In owning-class families, we also often lose our connection to other people and feel like our survival is in our ownership of stuff and money. We feel like if we can control wealth, we might survive. So it is hard for us to share.

How is sharing connected to the control of wealth? By maintaining the control of wealth, we can be generous without ever having to share. We can be “good people” without challenging the distress that says our security lies in the control of wealth. But if we do not challenge this material,2 we don’t get to really have people. That is very lonely, and we don’t get to challenge and end classism.

How do we share? I think as owning-class people we need to stand in the face of oppression and dare to share. We can start small. It’s less scary that way. But we get to share something we want all of. This is different than giving people things because we feel bad about having more. And it can be confusing, because many of us have patterns of self-denial out of guilt. Sharing is different than not asking for what we want or need. I suspect that as we share more, we will be more able to say what we need or want, to stand up for ourselves and our thinking for real. We will be more able to tell3 when we are being selfish and when we are taking what we actually need.

I have noticed with myself that the challenge is to share in the moment when I know I don’t have to, when no one is likely to notice if I don’t, or think that I shouldn’t have all of what I want. And when I want something and feel justified in getting it.

Sometimes the “something” is my time. It’s not how big or small the thing is—it’s contradicting the feeling of “I just want it” and “it’s all I have.” If I can choose to share that something (which I can’t always at all), it contradicts where I believe my survival is in that something more than in the people I might share it with. And I can remember people, and the day goes better and my life gets bigger.

Tamara Damon
New York, New York, USA
Reprinted from the RC e-mail discussion
list for leaders of owning-class people


Jelly beans are candies in the shape of beans.
“Material” means distress.
“Tell” means notice.


Last modified: 2019-05-02 14:41:35+00