By Oriah Mountain Dreamer
Thinking about giving, offering what we have and can give without endangering ourselves (ie.- truly sustainable giving.) Even a small offering of time, presence, material goods, compassion, skills etc. can truly touch and lift another.
Of course it gets complicated if giving is somehow mandatory (ruled by an inner “should.”) Was rereading Gabor Mate’s wonderful book When The Body Says No. In it he says something like- if you have a choice between guilt and resentment, choose guilt, because resentment is soul-destroying.
Resentment arises when we give where or when we either really don’t want to or it is truly not sustainable to do so. Guilt sometimes arises for some of us when we do not give where we have been taught we should (and some of us were taught we should give all of the time everywhere!) Giving can feel like a slippery slope for some of us if we feel that in giving anything we are obligated to give everything. But it’s not true, and believing this leads to truly unsustainable giving (until we collapse) or refusing to give anything in a reacitve effort to protect ourselves (which robs us of the joy of giving and the other of what he or she might have received.)
Of course the catch is we need to stay deeply aware of our hearts and bodies so we know what we can or cannot give without detriment to ourselves or others. When conditions are stressful it’s easy to disconnect from knowing what our inner and outer resources really are. It helps to develop a daily practice that brings us deeply in touch with ourselves.
Resentment can also arise where we are making a secret (as in largely unconscious) “deal” – for example, offering something to another in the hopes that we will be seen, loved, appreciated, praised or rewarded for giving. This one is tricky, because we can’t be more conscious than we are, but if we find ourselves often feeling owed or misused where we are giving, there’s a pretty good chance that we are expecting something in return. Explicit deals (as in- you can borrow my car if you pick me up at the airport at the end of the week) often work for everyone. Implicit, secret, unconscious or implied deals are likely to breed disappointment and resentment. Difficult for people to hold up their end of the bargain when they didn’t know there was a deal being made.
Giving without resentment is a gift to both the receiver and the giver and truly one of the great joys of human life when it is clear, clean, without secret expectations or a sense of obligation beyond doing what we can. It is our nature to want to give what we can where it is needed. We are interdependent with each other, the planet and all life here. No one lives without giving and receiving. When we are aware of how frequently giving and receiving are in our lives, gratitude for both naturally arises and enriches our day.
Of course for some of us receiving is a bigger challenge than giving- but I’ll mull that one over for next week’s blog.