Saturday, April 30, 2005

Giving the gift of giving

This is my last post from the computer kiosk in San Francisco! I have 25 minutes on my account and I have no more money, so this will be a relative quicky, compared to some of my more recent lengthy posts :-)

Another pitfall to watch out for on the path of service is the propensity to become the kind of person who "only gives." It's sort of an angle on the servant as doormat theme. I used to be this sort of person. I would give and give, but never receive. I was pathologically incapable of receiving, you might say. In my way of thinking at the time, giving was good, and receiving was selfish, so I was more than happy to give and give in this situation and that, but very poor at receiving or asking for help. Chronic givers often align with chronic takers, and the results are often that the giver plays the doormat and becomes resentful and feels used, but this rarely stimulates a shift on the chronic giver's part.

What is at the heart of chronic giving is actually egotism and selfishness, however ironic that may seem. Chronic giving without receiving is actually a means of controlling your relationships, and structuring them in a way that generates an unwarranted, even if unconscious, sense of moral superiority and safety relative to those around you, based on the false assumption that giving is good and receiving is bad.

The key which unlocked this problem for me and brought it to my awareness was the idea a college friend shared with me. She told me I needed to "give the gift of giving." She was quite the poet :-) When she told me this it struck me like a gong. All along I had been generating my unhappy heroism and my unrewarding "sanctity." Unhappy and unrewarding, that is, because I had really not been doing service from the heart. I was attempting to control how I would be blessed, and structuring my relationships in a manner that generated inequalities: after all, if giving was good and receiving bad, what ultimately did that say about the folks I was giving to? Not very promising! I recognized that I had refused an extremely important gift: my receptivity. By holding back the gift of my receptivity, I refused others in relationship with me the pleasure of serving me, of gifting me, of reciprocating my gifts, of surprising me with their own inspiration to share.

Well, recognize, acknowledge, accept, choose, act. My friend's words were potent medicine, and I've been practicing receptivity ever since!


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