As I’ve grown, I’ve seen myself change. When I was a child, my concerns were: 1) Where can I get some grub? and 2) I’d like to go back outside and play now, thank you.
Now my thoughts go something like this:
1) What projects do I need to get done for school?
2) What projects do I need to get done for work?
3) What projects can I get done at home?
4) What am I going to eat for breakfast?!
5) For lunch?!?
7) I should probably be social tonight…who should I call?
8) Time to pay the bills for this month.
9) Time to go grocery shopping again.
10) Time for a nap.
11) Maybe some time for myself? Maybe not.
12) Maybe some time for my religion? Squeeze that in.
And the list extends disgustingly far into the vast expanse of time. When I was a child my thoughts were few and were simple. Now that I am called a man (though I hardly feel it) I am consumed. Every inch of my time, stolen by someone. As I reflect on who that someone really is, I realize that the someone I can blame for my consumption is myself. I am my own consumption. I am consumed with myself! Too often.
Friends, if we are to give of ourselves, we must first learn to release ourselves from the indulgent clutches of ourselves. Less me, and more you. Less I, and more he, more she. Less us and more them. Remove your “I,” and you will see with clarity how to give of yourself.
We spend most hours of each day listening to us. Each decision you make, even the simple ones –what clothes to wear, what food to eat, how to brush our teeth, where to look – all these are made by listening to yourself. Even as I type, composing this guide to self-giving, I am listening to me. Then, in the hour or two of interaction with others we have each day, we often spend time speaking about the person we have been listening to the most lately, which is inevitably ourselves. We are prone to engage others with what we have most recently and most often been engaged – us.
Are we hopeless then to escape us and open our ears to them? No, of course not. The trick is to divert again your “I” to a “You.” Intercept your thoughts before they wander to yourself. Choose in this moment to really listen to the next person with whom you speak. It’s a therapeutic exercise. Your brain doesn’t like you. It talks to you all day. It would like to listen to someone else, and will reward you for the gift of someone else’s voice.
As we listen, we give pieces of the largest portion of ourselves – the space in our heads and hearts that are generally absorbed in ourselves.
Now that you’ve forgotten yourself, and made the choice to listen to someone else – you can identify holes to fill.
Giving is just filling holes. You and I have holes, many of which can only be filled by someone else. Most of these holes are easily filled with words of affirmation, a gentle smile, or a tender touch. The problem is, we spend most of our time looking at our own holes, which unfortunately, can’t be filled by us. If we spend time filling in the gaps we find while listening, we will shortly thereafter realize our own have been filled. By seeking the happiness of others, we find our own.
It’s what I call a perfectly designed ecosystem of emotions – those who freely give freely receive – all in balance with all. Engage in this system, and never again will you find holes in your life that you’d like to sit around and wonder how to fill.
It is easier to give.