Giving in Balance
Over the course my career I see a common theme with people who want to help their spouse, family member or friend. That is that we don’t like to see people suffer. We do our best to make people happy and often break our spiritual backs in the process.
The nature of being alive is that we will suffer. We will have joy and we will have tears. It’s completely natural. We have decided that suffering is bad and happiness is good. But in order not to suffer as much, contrary to popular belief we have to accept both suffering and happiness as equals. There are no get out of jail free cards in life. We lose our children; we lose our parents, spouses and best friends. We have to live our life the way it is, rather than the way we have it in our minds eye.
My girlfriend once explained to me that she wanted to step in and help her daughters to not suffer, but to do so would mean that she was stealing their life lessons. That statement really made me think. As a spouse, mother, sister and daughter, I don’t want to see the people I love suffer. But the perspective that by being overly involved in their issues and worries that I would somehow steal a life lesson from them stopped me dead in my tracks.
How can we be compassionate and understanding without being overly involved? What does it mean to be supportive and understanding but not co-dependent and intertwined? How can we best be teachers or mentors when people we love suffer?
People do not always behave the way in which we would like them to. Sometimes we don’t receive gratitude for our interventions. Sometimes we become so involved with the outcome of an issue we stop seeing the problem clearly at all. We forget that in order to help we have to take a step back and view the challenge as an unbiased witness or watch the events unfold through the eyes of a loving mentor.
A very difficult lesson I have learned in life is that you can not be who you were meant to be when you are trying to please someone. If you try to be someone that another person wants you to be makes you resentful and less likely to do the right thing for yourself and the other person. When we try to please others it makes us feel safe and it gives us the false illusion that we will not be rejected, we will be accepted and our efforts will be appreciated.
Sometimes in life we feel that we have to give, and this really is not the case. When giving in life, you offer because you are able to, and because you want to without expectation of response or outcome. You can only love others, as much as you love yourself. If you are emotionally empty then you can not expect yourself to be able to give. If you give when you are empty it invariably will lead to feelings of resentment.
Never make the mistake of valuing your self-worth by receiving gratitude or acknowledgment from others. You are the only person who can make you feel worthy and whole. You can not take anything personally when you give from a place of love. You give because you are full, capable and have the want to offer assistance. When helping people ask yourself this simple question. Am I giving because I want to give, or am I giving because I feel obligated to give? If you are feeling obligated then it is time to take a step back and reevaluate your role.
You only have the ability in life to change what you think. When you offer advice, give to others or help in a situation you can not take anything personally. You can’t help others who will not help themselves. You can give advice but the person you are helping does not have to take that advice. If you have a situation where you have offered your advice and the person is not receptive and brings up the subject later simply reply, “You know I am sorry you are suffering with this, but I already gave you my advice, I don’t know what else to say. I’m sure you will figure it out,” and politely change the subject. If you feel the person needs a physician or therapist then suggest it once and leave it alone, obviously if someone is suicidal or in danger you need to intervene with immediate help.
We all know people, who like to complain, feel sorry for themselves and suck all the energy out of a room. Terrible things happen in life. We all suffer and we have to be compassionate when people hurt. But sometimes people get addicted to feeling pity for themselves. I like to call this kind of person a psychic vacuum cleaner. This is the person you give to, then your empty, they still want more, you give and then you see their name on the caller ID and feel like banging your head against the wall.
By circumstance people get addicted to negativity and begin to see the world as a dark, evil and vindictive place to exist. Their whole world is seen through the lens of how awful glasses. The rich get richer, the poor get more poor, my vote doesn’t matter, the world is going to end, and so on. I honestly believe that whatever you believe with feeling becomes your reality. If you see the world as dark and negative then you too become dark and negative. I am not suggesting we celebrate war, molestation, death or murder. It is natural and necessary to be upset about terrible things in life, it is however not healthy to get sucked in by them to color your world to how awful. Looking back at my life, I realize that for a point in time I was one of those people. I do not regret that place in my life because it taught me to become who I am today. It was a necessary lesson to bring out the best in me. If you have been attracting a lot of negative people, could it be as easy as looking in the mirror?
When you change your world view to a neutral place or at best a positive outlook whatever you expect with confidence becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. What you get in life isn’t always what you want, but more of what you expect. Think about that for a moment. Look at the world around you, it says what’s going on inside you. I read a great book once called, “Three Magic Words,” and there was a great line in it that said, “You are not what you think you are, but what you think you are.”
Just remember if you are happy, whole and healthy and like who you are, you can give to others. If you are empty, feeling obligated and resentful you can not give to anyone. You can’t give to others unless you give to yourself first. Always give because it is the right thing to do. Give because you want to. Give without expectation of gratitude, reaction or response. Give anonymously whenever possible. The more you give from a place of love, the more people you can help and like throwing a stone into a pond the goodness will ripple outwards.