“All you have is what you are, and what you give.” Ursula K. Le Guin
Perhaps the deepest measure of our character, of our very humanity, is how much we go on giving when what we most value is taken from us — when a loved one withholds their love, when the world withdraws its mercy.”
“If equal affection cannot be / Let the more loving one be me,” W.H. Auden wrote in a poem contemplating the courage to love more and to give more, even in the face of the most heartbreaking and elemental disparity of passions. Maria Popova
I often find that Maria Popova’s newsletter Brainpickings wriggles its way into an inspired personal state of mind that leads to several of my blog posts. She is a grand thinker with widespread interests, frequently intersecting with my own. Such is true for this post.
Although… sometimes it is most difficult to give, even when you know that is truly is better to give than receive—very much more rewarding. It can feel to me that rude, insulting or dismissive people don’t deserve my gifts. And yet I read the line above from an A.H. Auden poem (“If equal affection cannot be / Let the more loving one be me,”) and my heart can be lowered to embarrassment.
That is when I realize that I am giving from a self-serving place instead of genuine care for another person or society or culture. When I give from a self-serving heart it seems almost as if I am actually giving to myself in an effort to bolster my ego or pride.
While in Africa a couple months ago I made a contribution to an orphanage that was not received with the appreciation I expected. I was highly offended. I told one of my team members about my offense and he asked me, “Charlie, who are you giving to?” “Well, to the orphan kids of course,” to which he responded, “then why are you looking for reward [such as being highly esteemed)?” His observation was right on target.
Giving for No Good Reason
In my upbringing, I learned that gratitude is the expected response whenever kindness is offered. However, such expectations can be warning signs: an unhealthy form of pride may be on the rise. My friend Terry Hershey is fond of reminding me, “Jesus loves me for no good reason.” The same should be true of my giving, “I give from my heart for no good reason apart from the benefit of another.”
I believe that every good gift comes from above. In turn, I only need to give from what was given to me in the first place.
So… Give… For No Good Reason Apart from Love
Photo courtesy of edhar at istockphoto