The Third Chapter: #A-Z Challenge
“If, in our third chapters, we were to ‘give back’ in our efforts to be useful, we would miss the mark. We must ‘give forward’ in order to meet the needs of the changing environment around us and to continue to grow and learn ourselves.”
The Third Chapter: Passion, Risk and Adventure in the 25 Years After 50 by Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot
You are probably aware of the concept of generativity. It is psychoanalyst Erik Erikson’s seventh (of eight) stage of human development. The gist of generativity is to give back to the next generation. Giving birth and raising children is an act of generativity so it can clearly happen at any time in an adult’s life. However, conscious, deliberate generative action is usually associated with midlife and beyond. The opposite of generativity is stagnation–disinterest in the world, in contribution, even in one’s own development.
Give Forward, Not Back
In The Third Chapter, author Lawrence-Lightfoot argues that the concept of giving back is wrong. She believes that giving back leaves us stuck in and endorsing our nostalgia for the past at the very time that we should be embracing new ideas and having new experiences. She wants us to look back to do the self-discovery work that will lead to living our authenticity in later life. But she encourages that we then give forward by marrying the lessons we’ve learned with the realities of the current generation.
A simple example of giving forward would be to use social media to share our understandings with young people. Not to use it as an older person does – i.e., Facebook only – but to deeply understand the role of social media in the life of a young person. And then to share our knowledge and experience using the medium that is most popular at the time.
I am what survives me.Erik Erikson
Ways to Give Forward
As a single, childless woman, I have often felt excluded from discussions of “leaving a legacy.” I am heartened to learn that there are many ways to contribute from writing a book, to giving blood, to attending a community meeting. All of these, and many other, actions are generative. To make them generative actions where we give forward, all we need to do is make sure that we stay involved in life and learning.
What are your thoughts about giving forward versus giving back?