GenerosityWed, May 18, 2011 - 7:25 AM
We tend to like those who are generous with us, allowing us to make mistakes and be imperfect without holding it against us. When people are generous, we feel like we can breathe around them. We feel like we can be more authentically who we are. Generosity is a spacious phenomenon.
Yet most of us are pretty stingy. Rather than looking for people’s positive traits, we assess them, instead, through the filter of who we think they should be or shouldn’t be, and how we think they should or should not be behaving. Instead of extending ourselves with open, unguarded hearts, we enter the majority of our encounters defended and closed. This withholding of ourselves is so common that we just think it’s normal. And yet, this way of being is really a reaction to a culture where fear is so predominant and pervasive. It has little to do with who human beings really are and what human beings really need in order to feel right with the world.
I took a weekend seminar once that was about developing the capacity to love others more fully. Most of us in the room thought of ourselves as fairly evolved in this regard. After all, we had paid good money and given up and entire weekend to learn more about how to be a loving person. Who does that except someone who is pretty far along the path already? But the facilitator challenged our notions of ourselves by asking, “How long do you think you could keep your heart open if, after confession your deepest passion and adoration for someone, they made it clear to you that your love was not reciprocated? How long do you think that you could continue to be generous with your love in the face of such a rejection?” Most of us had to admit, not very long.
Yet, what better opportunity to give love than when one is not getting what they want? It’s easy to be generous and loving toward those who are generous and loving toward us. However, to extend ourselves beyond what’s easy – to give in a way that compels us to let go of something that we are attached to – that is where true generosity begins.
Our most frequent response of reflexive defensiveness creates for us an emotional vacuum. When we hold back our love and light from others for any reason, we end up feeling starved for love ourselves. In her book Enchanted Love, Marianne Williamson writes, “To the extend that love has dried up in my life, it was always because I became miserly with my expressions of compassion. To the extend that love has blossomed in my life, it was always because I expanded my willingness to express the love that often cowers like a child in the corner of my heart.” In our reluctance to extend ourselves in love, we create an intense hunger for love in our hearts. Our drive to find “The One” is intensified as a kind of compensation for the love that is missing in our lives. We are filled with a deep and enveloping longing to be loved. We pine for someone who will take care of us – maybe even heal us or give us what we’ve never had.
From a poorly titled book, Calling In The One by Katherine Woodward Thomas
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Fantastic excerpt, RD.
"To the extend that love has blossomed in my life, it was always because I expanded my willingness to express the love that often cowers like a child in the corner of my heart.”
This is very touching. I feel I'm very miserly and with my LO, everything was such a mess. I rejected him from my consciousness over and over, and now I am struggling to be present and show that love. In the end I don't really think compensation/reciprocation matters that much to me, I just want this out. But it triggers off all of my wounded fearfulness too. I have never understood how my friends have spoken of me. I think that a part of me that I am disconnected from or just plain don't understand due to my upbringing is good at this, I think I have a subconscious backdoor bypass for this. I just don't let it touch ME, so I still feel empty of it. When someone does return affection to me, or is generous to me, I lock up and feel suspicious of the whole thing. Consciously, I can't handle it.
It all just reminds me of this song: www.youtube.com/watch
Awesome passage, RD.
I really connected with this message--this is something I have tried to put into action; to me it's an extension of "treat others the way you would like to be treated." If I make a mistake, do I want someone to be angry at me and punish me, or recognize that mistakes happen, and although they're not desirable, they can usually be fixed or at least offer an opportunity for growth and reflection. I prefer to work for people who use the second approach and I respond negatively to those who use the first.
I had a coach during my sophomore year of high school who was a "pusher"--he thought that the way to get the best out of his players was to continually hammer away at them, push them to always do better, fix this mistake, fix that mistake, do this next time. When you were having a shitty day, he'd be really short with you because you weren't performing well. For some people, that works to motivate them to do better. For me, I get extremely frustrated and irritated because I never feel like I am doing a good enough job. I just felt like he was constantly looking for things that I was doing wrong, and I hated him. I would say that I didn't even trust him. I would never tell him anything personal and really had no interest in small talk with him. I always felt like he was judging me, so I stayed away from him when possible. This, to me, demonstrates exactly what your excerpt is saying.
When someone is generous or forgiving, I feel safe. And if I feel safe, I let down my guard and express myself. I am more authentic. (Love how these concepts are all related.)
This is one of the things my semi-LO lacks. She is very judgmental about everything, and reacts strongly to misfortune and to people who do stupid/foolish things. With me, she is generally kind, but still there is a feeling that I am being judged. It prevents me from saying much of what's on my mind. Anyways...obviously this topic has a lot of personal meaning for me. :)
This is beautiful, RD.
<<<"To the extend that love has blossomed in my life, it was always because I expanded my willingness to express the love that often cowers like a child in the corner of my heart.”>>> Ha - ok, this is the sentence where I started crying. :)