Giving doesn’t have to be self-sacrifice, it can be warm and wonderful. But we all have a limit to what we give. Whether we’re talking about money, time or energy, giving comes from two places: Ego and / or Compassion.
Giving from compassion gets instant returns of good feelings. Giving from the ego gets a quick high or a quick low, but nothing long-lasting.
Learning to give to yourself first and foremost is how you give to others. How? Listen and find out!
(The following is a transcript of episode 0051)
Before we dive into today’s topic, I need to tell you about a special person who’s been listening since, I think, the first episode. She wrote me a letter in November of last year, the month the show first aired.
Her letter, actually an email, said the following:
“Just my opinion, of course, but because you are not doing this for the money, you have true freedom to go which ever direction really ‘speaks’ to you. Your podcast is the most meaningful one I have ever come upon. I have tried various Buddhist ones, but they can be a bit esoteric. Your cast makes so much common sense to me that I ‘get it’ right away. If you ever stop doing the cast, please keep me in your email list so I can follow you.
I am sharing your link to the podcast and your website with my family.
I didn’t ask for her permission to air this letter, so I’ll keep her last name out. But, I wanted to acknowledge Fran for a couple reasons today. One of those reasons has to do with the fact that she wrote, what I guess I could call, my first fan letter.
What I didn’t tell Fran back in November when I received this message, was that I thought her email was a scam. Ha ha! I’m so sorry Fran, I really thought you wanted something from me, because I had never in my life received a fan letter, so I didn’t know exactly how to react. I think I even wrote back and said something silly like, “Hey, if you have a website, I’d be happy to mention it on the air!” But she said, “No, I don’t do much online. I actually help young girls learn to weld.”
I was like, “Weld? Really? That’s incredible!” I thought it was so amazing that young ladies could go somewhere to learn something like that, because it’s just something you don’t hear about often. There are young girls out there that want to do more things, and different things with their life than just texting each other or talking about boys or whatever girls do (I’m probably way off, so I’m sorry if I just offended an entire generation of young women).
But Fran didn’t want anything from me. She just wanted to say “Thank you”. I thanked her and told her how honored I was she reached out.
This was moment of shifting for me. This was before I had fully embraced my role as any kind of teacher, and just did the bare minimum of what I knew how to do in hopes that it was the right thing to do. But Fran heard something she liked, and reached out to thank me.
The second reason I want to acknowledge Fran today is because since then, I hadn’t heard from her. I thought she might have been one of the many listeners that stopped listening during the darker days I talked about in episode 50, when the show was still finding its footing.
But the truth was, she’d been a loyal listener all this time. A silent observer and avid supporter. I found this out because about a week and a half ago, she got sneaky and got my mailing address off the bottom of one of my email newsletters (By law, I have to post my actual address on any email I send from The Overwhelmed Brain subscriber list) and she decided to mail me a letter via snail mail. Can you believe it? An actual letter through the US Postal Service. I think even the post office was surprised!
But seriously, the letter came just a few days ago. But… it had contained more than a letter. Inside the envelope was a check. My first reaction was, “What are you doing Fran? Why are you sending me a check?”
The letter read, “I wanted to show my appreciation for the good work you are doing. I really don’t buy many things anymore from Amazon, or even regular stores. I find that I just don’t need that much stuff! So I am sending you a check as I do for NPR…”
The letter goes on, but she went on to say that she hopes my book does well and puts me “financially on top”!
Fran, what are you doing sending me a check! So, again, Fran did another “first” where I again had to figure out how to respond. I’m used to people using the Amazon link that I mention at the end of the show, which is definitely helping to pay for specific components of what it costs to operate a show like this.
But Fran took an extra step to show me her generosity with not only her money, but the time and energy it takes to send me a paper letter and have it delivered it the old fashioned way!
I’m really at a loss for words. Here’s someone who went above and beyond to acknowledge me, just to show she’s out there, listening, and appreciating what I do.
I’m deeply touched, and now need to once again shift into a new place inside of me to embrace the person others see me as. I don’t mean me as a teacher, but someone who can accept the praise and admiration I may get for what I do.
I am humbled and honored at the same time. I don’t think I fully realize how many people listen to the show, especially those who haven’t sent me a message, until something like this happens that moves me into a new space of learning and growing.
You have the ability to change someone, like Fran is helping to change me. You have the ability to acknowledge someone, and tell them how much you appreciate them and how much they’ve changed your life. Not just by telling them, but by showing them.
About ten years ago, I sent a letter to a teacher I had in high school that let me be as creative as I wanted to be in class. Almost nothing was off limits. Coincidentally, it was a Creative Writing class, so I guess that was part of it. But I remember how free I felt in that class, and how I felt so supported by her and everything she taught. She let me express, without squelching me or putting me down when what I was doing might have been considered offensive to some people. She just let me be.
I wrote her a three page letter telling her how she helped shape me, and let me be myself, and that her contribution in my life is still felt today. And even now, as I talk about this, I still benefit from her teachings and support, because the way I am able to express myself now, has a lot to do with who she allowed me to be when I was a teenager.
Her response was so appreciative and heartwarming. It was wonderful to hear that she not only remembered me, but was touched that I wrote and said those things. She asked if she could share my letter to her class. I wrote back and said, “Absolutely!”
Nancy Mills, my Creative Writing teacher, I appreciate you for what you have done in my life. You allowed me to be myself, and express what I needed to express without judgment. You are one of the reasons I am where I am today. Thank you.
Fran, you wrote my very first fan letter, and were the first person to help me shift into the person I need to be, to help me help others. Thank you.
For those of you using the Amazon link I mention at the end of each episode, I acknowledge you too. I may not know your names, but you are a part of all of this, and because you are there for me, I make sure that I am there for you too. Thank you.
And no one has to send any money. No one. You can just listen, learn and grow all you want. Because if you shift, and your life changes in some small way, that is more rewarding than anything. So I thank you, yes you, for being there for this show. Without you, there is no show. It’s like that philosophical statement, “If a tree falls in the woods, and no one is around to hear it, did it ever make a sound?”
The statement is a question of whether sound can exist if there is no one there to hear it. At least, that’s how I understand it to mean. Same with this show:
If no one is around to listen, the show cannot exist. So I am fortunate that you are out there, listening.
Who can you acknowledge today, or tomorrow, or soon? Who has affected your life that, perhaps you haven’t thought about in a while? Who is someone you can reach out to, and tell them what they’ve done for you in your life?
Let me tell you what happens when you do: You validate them. You give a little, or maybe even a lot, of meaning and purpose to someone’s life when you do this. What Fran and so many others have done for this show, moves me. It creates a shift in me. I feel like I bring meaning and purpose to other people’s lives.
When you acknowledge someone, you not only affect them, but you affect you.
Around the same time I wrote to my former Creative Writing teacher, I also wrote to another teacher. This was someone who had a huge impact on my career choices in life. Again, I praised him and told him how much I valued what he’d done for me so long ago. When he responded to my letter, it was incredible. He said it was perfect timing, and how he was just so touched by it. When I heard that, I also felt meaning and purpose in my life.
When you acknowledge, admire, praise, or whatever you want to call it, you create a positive shift in both you and the other person. It’s like when we talked about compassion in a previous episode. When you buy the person’s meal behind you in line at the drive through, you feel good because they feel good. It’s almost selfish how easy it is to be compassionate and get so much from giving to others.
Be selfish by being compassionate.
Acknowledge those who may not realize how much they’ve meant to you. Maybe relatives, friends, teachers, people from work or wherever. Is there someone that has changed your life for the better in some way?
And if the person you want to acknowledge is longer around, whether they’ve passed on or moved away, there is still a way to honor them for how they’ve changed your life. And that is to do the next best thing.
My step-uncle Larry had no kids to leave his possessions to in his will, because he and his wife chose to never have children. So he did the next best thing:
He willed all of his money and possessions to all of his brother’s kids.
When he died, I got a letter in the mail stating that I had some money coming to me from a person I hardly knew. My step-uncle Larry, someone I’m not even blood-related to, left me money. I still tear up today thinking how generous and selfless that was.
Do you realize how amazingly warm and grateful I feel knowing that this person decided to do the next best thing? I think I met him only a few times as a small child. But because I was still raised by his brother, my stepfather, I received part of that inheritance.
My respect and admiration for him shot through the roof. I was floored by his generosity, and hold a special place for him in my heart. His legacy will always be with me, and even now, just by talking about him to others, I am honoring him. I am doing the next best thing to acknowledge and thank him.
So if the person you want to thank isn’t around anymore, you can always do the next best thing. Whatever that is.
Who can you affect? Who can you acknowledge? Whose life will you change just by saying “Thank you“ for something they did. Especially when they don’t expect it.
Be selfish by being compassionate. The direct result of acknowledging someone else is an immeasurable feeling of good for both of you.
If you haven’t guessed, today’s show is about giving to others. But it’s much more that actually, because sometimes we give a little too much of ourselves when we’re giving. There’s a balance between giving and being generous, and giving so much you get exhausted and burned out.
I want to talk about what it takes to give with compassion. Compassion not just for the person, event, business, charity, or whatever you’re giving to, but compassion for yourself at the same time.
By the end of today’s episode, you’ll know how much of yourself to put into the giving equation without losing yourself altogether. If you’ve ever found yourself giving to someone else to the extent of excluding your own sanity or happiness, then today you’ll learn what it takes to give, to love and to be someone who is comfortable reaching a limitation, and honoring when you need to stop giving.
This might be tough for some of you, especially if you’ve grown into a person that tends to get walked on. But we’ll explore what it takes to be whole, while being giving and compassionate.
This is something I am an expert in, to tell you the truth. Because most of my life, I chose to give to others to the exclusion of my own health and happiness. So I want to share with you what you can do to stay aware of your limitations and when it’s time to stop giving to others, and start giving to yourself.
Almost every friendship I had up until about 10 years ago was inauthentic in some way. I would become friends with someone, we’d hang out, have a great time together, and enjoy each other’s company. But there was something I was doing in every friendship that caused me to get burned out.
After a few years, I would simply burn out from the friendship. Not because of anything they did. In fact, they never really changed who they were, they were just being themselves. The same person I met is the person they were being years later. There was no behavior that suddenly came out where I was like, “Whoa, what’s this all about? You aren’t the same person I met 4 years ago. You’ve changed!”
What ended up happening almost every time is that I couldn’t hold on to the person I was trying to be for them.
I had learned at very young age to become a different person around dangerous people, so that I would stay safe. It was a survival technique and one that many children of alcoholics do in order to live through mild to severe dysfunctional family life growing up.
By watching the behavior of my stepfather, and acting a certain way around him, I would soon learn what set him off and what wouldn’t. If one behavior didn’t work, I’d do another. And soon, I got it down perfect. I became what I was told was a “chameleon”. In order to survive, I behaved in ways that didn’t elicit aggressive or violent behavior towards me.
“Survive” is a strong word, but children don’t know any better. When I was young, a spanking was like death. So the big unknown for kids is erratic behavior from an alcoholic. I mean, who knows what an irrational, inebriated person will do if they don’t like what you say or do?
Kids learn through cause and effect, just like animals. Well, I don’t mean to compare kids to animals, but we’re all animals especially in the sense that we do what keeps us alive. This adaptive behavior is what causes us to develop certain mannerisms and programmed responses for the rest of our lives.
In other words, once we learn a behavior, we keep doing that behavior regardless of the context of the situation. So even after we get out of a dysfunctional situation, like an alcoholic or abusive relationship, we take how we learned to survive with us into other relationships.
For me, I took my technique to change into a person that others wanted, with me into all my relationships, both platonic and romantic. For my friendships, it was great for my friend as they got the perfect friend. In my romantic relationships, it was great for the first few years, until they realized that I really didn’t have my own personality. Something started to feel “off” for them, and they slowly started to distance themselves from me.
I could not be authentic in any relationship, because the only way I knew to be was the person I believed they wanted me to be.
If you think this kind of behavior is a recipe for disaster, well, yes it is. Maybe not at first, but in the end, it most definitely will become a problem. When you behave as the person you believe someone else wants you to be, you are fulfilling many of the other person’s wants and needs in the relationship.
So, for them, they could actually benefit for a while. Of course, this is a lot of work if you’re ignoring your own wants and needs. Eventually, you’ll get tired. You will lose the will to continue being someone else for someone else.
But this is how I lived my life. And instead of figuring it out in myself, I’d end the friendship in one way or another. Whether by moving away or simply ignoring the person more and more.
I was giving all I could give, in the only way I knew how to give, in every relationship. And every relationship would end. It wasn’t until I got married when I figured out that giving and giving more of myself without regard for myself, was the cause of most of the stress and negativity in all my relationships throughout the years.
Giving to others, whether it’s time, energy, money, or even just a friendship, can be rewarding when you aren’t giving so much that you are depleted. Depletion is the result of giving so much of something until you have very little of it left.
I felt depleted from these relationships. And in order to feel fulfilled, I needed to stop giving so much. You see where I’m going with this? Let’s dive into what we’re here to talk about today, right now.
One of the most important things to remember is that there’s a difference between giving and depleting. Giving of yourself could mean a number of things. You can give your time and effort, your money, your love, or your opinions. You can give someone a place to stay for a while, you can volunteer or give to a charity, the list goes on.
There’s no question we all know what “giving” is. Even now, you are giving your time to me, something I honor and want to reciprocate by giving back through this show. It creates a balanced relationship of giving and receive. And when both sides win, both sides benefit.
But what about when both sides don’t win? What happens when there is more receiving on one side? What happens when the balance starts to tip one way or another?
Giving comes from two places: Compassion and ego. When you give solely from compassion, then you will always have the same amount, if not more, good feelings than when you started.
When you give solely from the ego, expecting something in return, it is depleting. It’s that attempt at a “quick high” over a selfless offer. The result may be a burst of good feelings, or a setup for disappointment. Either way, it’s depleting, because of your expectations.
Expectations rule the roost here. Your intentions define whether you’re giving from compassion or ego.
Giving from a place of compassion is wanting the experience to be all about the other person.
Giving from a place of ego is wanting the experience to be about you.
The other person may still benefit from your giving, but your ego wants to be acknowledged, and maybe even paid back.
There’s nothing wrong with either approach, believe it or not. I realize giving from a place of compassion sounds like a more enlightened place, and it may be, but there are benefits to giving from ego as well. As long as you aren’t inflating your ego.
Giving from compassion is like leaving a box of chocolates on your coworker’s desk without telling them who did it. And, without wanting them to know who did it. It’s like making an anonymous donation.
Again, giving from a place of compassion is making the experience all about someone else.
Now, with that same box of chocolates example, if you wanted them to acknowledge you for giving them that gift, that would be involving your ego. Whenever you want yourself in the equation, that is coming from a place of ego.
But is that a bad thing? Is wanting acknowledgement for something you did for someone necessarily a bad thing? Well, it all depends on your intentions and the outcome you are trying to achieve.
If the outcome you want is a smiling face, or a happy person, then either way you give, whether you choose to be acknowledged or not, is fine. Because even if you like to have your ego stroked a little, you still want good to come to the other person.
Now, if the outcome you want is for the other person to eventually do something for you, as in a reciprocation of some sort, then you are trying to influence them in a way that is likely deceptive. This is purely an ego-driven approach, and will probably create future disappointment for you.
Oh, there’s one more addition I want to make about the ego and giving, and that is that the ego is where fear, worry and obligation rise up from. When you give because you feel obligated, or fearful from the repercussions about not giving, that is your ego kicking into gear either making you feel guilty or fearful or some other negative emotion that causes you to, and this is important, violate your own personal boundaries. Ouch! Imagine your ego walking in and saying, “No, keep doing what you’re doing, even if it means you are dishonoring yourself.” Uh, no thanks. We’ll explore that today too.
But let’s stop comparing ego to compassion, and giving to depleting, and just get into what to consider before or when you’re giving. You can apply this information to any area of life where you give. But just to make this topic easy to discuss, I’ll reference mainly giving to another person. Let’s begin!
1. What is your intention to give?
Intentions pave the way to every future decision and all future behavior. What you intend when you give to someone else is directly related to how you feel both short term and long term.
If your intention is to see them smile and get that good feeling when they receive, then the beauty of giving is that once you do it, your part is done. And, you can feel good knowing that they feel good. It comes back to you right away when you give with this intention.
One of the best things to happen to me when I go out to eat is that I get a grumpy server. I love when this happens, because it’s an opportunity to brighten someone’s day. They come over to the table, clearly jaded and grumpy. You can see it all over, in their expression, their body language, everything. They’re having a rough day, and they may not even be able to fake a smile.
One of the first things I say to someone like this is something to the effect of, “How’s the crowd tonight, are they giving you a hard time?”
Almost always, their body language will relax a little, as if they found someone who understands the pressures and the stress they go through. All servers get a hard time from one or more people on every shift, it’s just the nature of the job. So when a customer comes along and connects with them in their world, they feel understood and acknowledged. It’s amazing to see the transformation sometimes. It doesn’t connect with everyone, it really depends on where the server is in their own mind. But most of the time, expressing a frustration for them really does help ease them up a bit.
You can do this with anyone. Whenever someone you know or meet looks frustrated or stressed out, try to think about what they would be stressed out about, and express that thought for them. This is especially effective in a service industry where the person isn’t allowed to complain about people. I love doing this on the phone with customer service reps who have to follow a script and get angry callers throughout the day.
One of the first things I say is, “So, you get a lot of angry callers throughout the day” and almost always, without fail, they’ll laugh! Isn’t that great? It makes the conversation go so much smoother, and you know you probably just helped them release a little stress. I call it expressing by proxy. I don’t really call it that, I just made it up. But it is a neat thing to do if you ever get a chance.
I like to lump giving, with “acknowledging”. By acknowledging the stress of a waiter, it is like giving them a little gift. Sometimes, that is. Some are definitely on auto-pilot and just want to get through the night. But it doesn’t matter, because your intention is compassionate. You want to make it about them.
Now, if your intention in giving is to get something in return, then you are trying to force an outcome that you want.
In the example I gave about expressing what I think the waiter is going through, I may actually get better service, assuming they are a proficient server in the first place. But even if not, they will still likely be more friendly than they would have been had I not said anything. But if my sole intention was to manipulate them so that they would give me better service, without caring whether they felt better or not, then things like that seem to backfire eventually. In the moment, it may work. There are mind tricks you can do to deceive and make people like you. I don’t ever teach those, but everything I do teach can be twisted and used in that way for sure. But intentions come back to haunt you, because bad intentions typically accompany other bad behaviors.
Intentions are in the mind, and cannot be seen by others. And when you set an intention, it is compared to your morals, ethics and values. This all happens in a matter of milliseconds, but if there is any conflict with your morals, ethics or values, it becomes a negative emotion that gets swallowed. In other words, if your intentions are not in alignment with those three things, you plant a seed of future unhappiness.
This is a little deep, I realize. But think about if your intention was to steal someone’s wallet. Unless you’re psychopathic, there’s a part of you that knows it’s wrong. You know it’s wrong, but you set the intention anyway. And because you know it’s wrong, that negative emotion is formed and gets stored in the body. I know that sounds weird, but all negative emotions are felt in the body somewhere.
If you want to test that theory, think about someone hurting a child or an animal, or whatever really tugs at you, and explore where you feel it in your body. When I think about what was lost in a former relationship, I feel it in my stomach. There’s some eastern philosophy to this that I won’t get into now, but even at the most scientific level of thought, emotions are physical sensations.
Anyway, when you have an intention behind your action that is not in alignment with your morals, ethics or values, you actually create conflict in your mind and body. And, if you stuff it away, it will rise up in different, perhaps destructive ways, later.
That’s why you have to be careful if your intention is from ego or from compassion. Ego sometimes wants what it wants without without too much care about anything else. Ego is not good or bad, it just needs to be monitored constantly so it doesn’t get you into trouble. If you give to, or acknowledge someone with the egotistical intention of manipulating or influencing them for your benefit, and you get a small negative feeling inside you, you are probably not in alignment with your morals, ethics or values.
It can happen quickly, but that moment of bad feeling can save you from planting seeds of your future unhappiness. When you intend to give from your heart with compassion, you’ll find more happiness come into your life. And the reverse is true when your intentions are not so good.
This really isn’t “out there” thinking, it’s actually quite logical. The process of intention being weighed against those three filters, causes a good or bad feeling. Then when you choose to act upon that intention, it seals the deal and leaves you with a long-lasting good feeling (the road to happiness), or a long-lasting bad feeling (the road to unhappiness).
Give with good intentions, and good feelings will prevail. Give with not so good intentions, and the results aren’t worth it in the end. Compassion is always a winner when giving.
The title of today’s episode is “How to Give to Others Without Giving Up Too Much of Yourself”. When your intentions are from a good place, you always get back a good, long-lasting feeling. When they are not, you are giving up a part of yourself.
Hopefully by now, I don’t have to explain that last part. But it’s not just raw action that causes the problems to appear in life, it starts with the intentions.
2. Act as if the person you’re giving to already paid you back.
If you have trouble giving from a compassionate place, or just want to fully experience what it’s like to give with no strings attached, act as if the person you’re giving to has already paid you back.
And if the person has already done something for you, it’s even easier. It’s giving with no expectations. Giving as if they have earned it, whether it’s true or not, is a wonderful way to feel good about giving. And, it doesn’t pre-obligate you to wait for something in return. In other words, you’re giving requires no return and you won’t get bothered with thoughts of “I wonder if they’re going to pay me back!”
Whenever I lend money nowadays, the very first thing I do in my head is call it a gift. I lend with the intention of never getting it back. I tell the person that I do expect it back, but know that it’s likely I’ll never see it again. This allows me to let it go, and move on in life.
Lending money to people can be one of the fastest ways to lose them as a friend or relative in your life. If they find you wearing new shoes, or planning your next vacation, but you still owe them money? Expect dirty looks and hard feelings. And I’m not just talking about money here, I’m just using it as an example.
So when you lend or give, act as if they’ve already paid you back; as if they just worked 40 hours and you were handing them a paycheck for a job well done. Then, you can let it go. If they pay you back, great! If not, well, you never expected them too, so it’s still great!
Now, if you absolutely cannot give acting as if the debt is already forgiven, then maybe you shouldn’t be giving. If you can’t afford to give because you will get upset if you don’t get back, then don’t give. I’m sure most of the time you’ll get it back, but if there’s a possibility the friendship will be destroyed, then it’s better to say “no” now, then to ask about the debt later.
If you ever want to practice this, simply give something of yours away. Many years ago, I had a girlfriend who was wearing a piece of jewelry that she thought would look better on someone else she saw on the beach. So she approached the woman and said, “I can see you in this more than I can see myself in it”, or something like that. My girlfriend gave her that jewelry, and the woman was glowing, she was so shocked and thrilled.
This kind of gift you know won’t come back to you, at least from that person, because you will never see that person again. I suppose it’s possible you will, but the chances are usually remote. It’s a warm feeling to give without expecting anything in return. And it closes the loop, as I like to call it, so that lingering thoughts don’t… linger. You can’t get upset at someone if they owe you nothing. It’s a win-win all around.
3. Give within your personal boundaries and limitations
I’ve seen people with hearts so big, they forget about themselves in the process. This sounds noble and compassionate, but it can sometimes exhaust and deplete all their inner resources. I’m talking about the people that say “Yes” to everything, whether out of fear, or out of guilt, or even because they believe it’s the right thing to do – an obligation of some sort.
Most of the time, when you give too much, it’s out of fear. “Too much” in the sense that it starts to deplete your energy, where it drains you and you become more submissive than compassionate.
This is a big danger zone because of one, very important detail that you must keep in mind whenever you give:
The quality and compassion of your gift is only as genuine as your level of compassion towards yourself.
If you learn one thing in this episode, this is what I want you to take away. I’ll say it again: The quality and compassion of your gift is only as genuine as your level of compassion towards yourself.
When you give out of compassion, does it drain you or energize you? That’s how you can measure that statement. When you feel at all drained or depleted, or feel negativity in any way when giving, then you are not truly giving, your are submitting.
You’re submitting to fear, or worry, or any of a number of negative thoughts or feelings because of what might happen if you don’t give. And when you give from this place, a place of lack or submission, you’re actually taking away from yourself.
When you feel like you are getting drained from giving, then you are no longer genuine about giving. And giving from a non-genuine place is like chipping away at your soul. It removes the purpose and meaning behind giving in the first place. In fact, any person or cause that you give to that expects you to feel depleted when doing so is probably not someone or something you want to associate with anyway.
The typical problem that arises however is when the person or cause you’re giving to doesn’t know you’re depleting yourself. It just sees the end result, and thinks everything is great. So in order to make sure you don’t give beyond your own personal boundaries and limitations, you need to monitor yourself. Not with a microscope, but with a simple question. The next time you give, ask yourself:
“Is this good for both me and for them?”
It’s a simple, straightforward question that gets to the end result of your giving right away. I remember I was doing a project with a good friend of mine, and he was totally into it and loving where we were going with it. But every time I contributed, I felt like it was taking something away from me. Not only the time that I could have spent on other things, but my thoughts and ideas were all being forced to think about things I really didn’t want to think about. I had little passion for what we were doing, but because I felt obligated now that someone else was really excited about it, I just kept trudging forward.
It got to the point where I didn’t even want him to mention the project. I was tired. It felt like the wrong direction for me, and I just had no desire to pursue it further. I was giving out of obligation because I committed to it, and out of fear and worry that I’d lose a friendship over it if I decided to back out.
But I was not taking into account the very things I talk about, and that is compassion towards myself first and foremost. I was breaking my own rule! So I asked myself, “If I am truly compassionate towards myself first and foremost, what would I do?”
Of course, it’s sounds like I’m talking to myself from outside myself, but it was effective because what I came up with was, “I’d apologize to my friend, tell him I was wrong for committing to this, and drop the project completely.”
As soon as I came to terms with that realization, I felt clarity. I felt peace come over me. This was the right decision.
I called him up and told him exactly that. I said, “I’m so sorry about this, but I have to back out of this project. I made a commitment, and I know how much time and effort you’ve put into it, but I am getting drained thinking about it. I simply don’t have the time or the energy to put into it, and I don’t want to be the reason it fails.”
He responded with the sweetest words I could ever hear, “Of course! Take care of yourself first and foremost.” When I heard those words, I nearly teared up, I hate to admit, because I really expected him to be angry and dump our friendship. But our true character is always revealed during the most challenging moments in life.
He wasn’t angry, he was compassionate. He was compassionate towards me, not the project. Not only was I now being compassionate towards me, but he was too. We canned the project, and remain friends to this day.
My personal boundaries had been compromised with this project, but I was continuing to move forward. I had reached my limitations and no longer felt good about it, but I continued moving forward. Then when I did some introspection to figure everything out, I realized I wasn’t being compassionate towards myself. When I did that, everything fell into place. It was the right direction for me.
And the bonus on top of all of this was that my friend’s priority was me, not the project. This revealed to me his true character.
When you honor yourself, you may get people mad at you. They may not be happy, or maybe they’ll feel like you led them on. But if they honor you, they’ll honor where you need to be.
If you are giving and find yourself depleting in energy and passion, it’s time to stop, and think about what you need to do to be compassionate towards yourself. When you lose compassion for yourself, you can’t give from the same place anymore. Compassionate giving comes from a compassionate place. Gifts of obligation come from a more forced place.
I’m not saying that every single time you give, you must be compassionate. Because there are times where, you just have to give no matter what. Let’s get real here, if you’re sick and tired of your screaming kids, you may feel like your personal boundaries are being crossed, and you are not being compassionate towards yourself by always giving to them.
Kids are one of the few things that you kind of have to care for no matter what, because you made them. The choice to exist wasn’t their’s (although I’m sure some of you spiritual people may disagree with that, ha ha!), so when you can’t find the compassion, but have chosen to take on the responsibility of having children, then you must come to an acceptance of what is.
It is the absolute acceptance that it will be this way, and you can either stay conflicted and upset, or give in and accept. Acceptance removes resistance allowing positive emotions to rise up and through you. Of course, most of you love your children and will do anything in the world for them, so I’m sure this isn’t as big an issue as I make it out to be. But there are those of you who may feel resistance and confliction about your kids. So just know that when you give to them, you are giving them a chance to live and experience life. And what they get from you now is what will come out in 20 or 30 years, when they’re fully grown.
My mom gave us all she could when we were kids, and my stepfather didn’t because, well, he couldn’t. He was incapable of being compassionate towards us, because he was not compassionate towards himself. And this led to problems for all of my sisters and brothers throughout the years.
But one last thing on this particular segment before we move on, and it’s related to what I talked about previously about that project I had to let go of. We often think that we are the only person in the world that can give a particular set of skills, or money, or time, or whatever. We can believe that no one else could do what we do, so we might stay committed to things way beyond the time we should.
If you find yourself in that situation, just remember once again that giving comes from the heart, not the body. When you stay energized and passionate, and you can give from that place, that is healthy and long-lasting. When you give and it starts to wear down your mind and body, even though your heart may still be in it, that is unhealthy and short-lived.
If you really want to change the world, or even a single person, then you must last long enough to do so. And you do that by honoring yourself, and knowing when you’ve given more than your heart can handle. Once the body and mind become tired, the heart usually follows. And at that point, there’s no compassion left, only obligation. And soon, you have nothing left to give.
Alright, to summarize, there’s a difference between giving and depleting. Giving when you feel good about it, and they feel good about it, brings a surplus of good feelings and emotions. It energizes you and keeps you inspired.
When there’s a win-win scenario, then giving and receiving work as they should. Giving comes from two places, compassion and ego. Giving from a place of compassion makes you feel good about giving. Full, compassionate giving is a place of giving from within, where everything is alignment and it just feels good through and through
Giving from ego is when fear, obligation, or expectations of reciprocation bubble up. It is a place where you go, “Yeah, but what about me?”, and usually generates some sort of negative feelings. Giving from anywhere but full compassion allows the ego to creep in and want to know what’s in it for me.
The ego is a tool that can steer us along a resourceful path, or an unresourceful path. It seeps into decisions, and wants to include us in the equation. But ego can be good in this sense that it informs us when personal boundaries are being compromised. Ego can tell us when we need to check in and figure out if we are being depleted when we give, or if we feel full compassion through and through, and feel energized when we give.
Giving when you expect something in return is like being addicted to a drug, in the sense that you set yourself up for a reward every time you give. And when you get that reward, that reciprocation, it gives you a quick high. When you don’t get it, it gives you a quick low. It’s variety and uncertainty at its finest, but without ever knowing what will happen, it can be no fun always waiting for something that may never take place.
Remember that giving from a place of compassion is wanting the experience to be all about the other person. And giving from a place of ego is wanting the experience to be about you. There can be a mix in there for sure, but check in and make sure you aren’t giving so much that you no longer come from a place of full compassion. You’ll know when you don’t have a good feeling when giving. It may be a tiny bad feeling, or something bigger. But do some introspection, and show compassion for yourself!
Sure, the other person may still benefit from your giving, but as you deplete yourself, you will soon get burned out and soon will have nothing left to give. Or, you’ll be giving from a place other than full compassion which is not the true spirit of giving. Compassion is where giving comes from, and when you don’t feel it, it’s time to give to yourself first.
It’s always possible that someone will never give and always believe they are in a place of lack, but sometimes you need to let those people be. Some people have grown up with a lack mentality and probably feel that there is not enough of things to go around. Whether that’s money, time or energy. If you or someone you know never feels they have enough inside to give to others, that’s okay. Everyone needs to be where they are, experiencing life from the place they’re at, in order to learn and become empowered at the right time.
Remember, compassionate giving is about making the experience all about someone else. Some people still have not experienced a world where they have felt abundant enough to give. If that’s you, or someone you know, it’s okay! You’ve had it pretty rough. Only you will know the right time for you. And if you want a taste, just remember, you can always give something away just to see what it feels like. Who knows, maybe abundance will come your way in forms you don’t even realize, the more you give.
We discussed intentions and how they pave the way to every future decision and all future behavior. Your intentions behind your giving are directly related to how you feel both short term and long term.
You can intend to give to someone in hopes you get a smile, or at least know that they feel good about it. Not everyone will feel good about it, and that needs to be okay too, because some people really don’t know how to receive well. You may be expecting a smile, but try not to be too concerned if you don’t get one.
I’ve found that even the most stoic people actually have a heart way down, but simply don’t like to show it to the world. It’s when you give to people like this where you really have to keep your ego in check, because you may want a smile and never get one. Which means it’s more beneficial to realize you affected them at a deeper level.
The story I told of being able to relate to grumpy waiters doesn’t always come to the results I want. I’ve tried to connect with waiters that just don’t want to go there no matter what. I can choose to be unhappy that I couldn’t get them to loosen up, or I can accept them for where they need to be at this time.
Letting go of your attachment to the outcome comes in handy when it comes to giving. Or, in my case, trying to get a waiter to loosen up and possibly smile. I know deep down that somewhere in there I’ve connected with them. And if I don’t get a smile, well heck, maybe at least I won’t get a thumb in my food. I now apologize to all wait-people that think I’m generalizing you. I swear, I’m not! I love you hard working men and women.
Giving with good intentions always leads to good results, even when it appears the results weren’t so good. The reason is because you are coming from a genuine place. Your heart was in the right place, and you create good feelings. A “good” intention is defined by running it by your morals, ethics and values.
As long as there is no conflict with those three things, you will keep the seeds of unhappiness away. Both negative and positive emotions are felt in the body. When you fill the body with good emotions, by giving with only the best intentions, you will stay happy and healthy longer. And the reverse is true when you give with not so good intentions, hoping to manipulate or deceive. You build who you are one decision at a time.
Remember that giving as if you have already been paid back is the best way to give. Give with the intention of the person not ever paying you back. I’ve watched too many court shows to know that so many people placed more value on what they gave or lent to someone else, than they did on the person. Good bonds go bad when there are expectations that aren’t fulfilled.
Give as if they have already reciprocated, or don’t give at all. Or, give knowing that the relationship could go bad if they choose not to, or can’t return, the favor.
If you can’t give without saying goodbye to what you’re giving, maybe it’s better not to give. A win-win scenario is what you’re shooting for, and you want to keep the good feelings as much as possible.
You can practice giving with no strings attached by giving stuff away to strangers, or coworkers, or anyone that you don’t have close ties to. Or, even if you have close ties, simply give them something knowing that they could use it or might like it, and especially with no strings attached.
Finally, give within your personal boundaries and limitations. Don’t have such a big heart, that you are willing to give so much that you de-energize yourself and feel depleted every time you do. The quality and compassion of your gift is only as genuine as your level of compassion towards yourself. When you give from compassion, you feel energized. When you give too much, you feel drained, and lose passion. You become submissive and give out of fear or obligation. This is when giving becomes taking away, from yourself.
When you’re giving, ask the question, “Is this good for both me and for them?” When there’s a win-win, you both win. When one loses, neither win. Because if you can’t be there fully, then they won’t experience the richness of the complete you, if that makes sense. You are the gift that gives. When you are whole, you can give from a place of wholeness. That is a true gift.
Take care and take notice about your personal boundaries. When you are giving while your personal boundaries are being compromised, you are are taking from yourself. The more you take from yourself, the less you have to give.
Maybe it’s not the right time to give, or maybe it’s something else. But if you aren’t checking in with yourself and you start getting drained, you will not have much at all to give later.
People who really honor you will understand when you need to honor yourself. You may find out who really does honor your journey, and it may be hard to find this stuff out, but at least you’ll know where you stand with them.
Giving comes from the heart, not the body. When you feel the body starting to feel the effects of giving, you are probably past the point of compassion. Giving from the heart keeps you energized, but when the body and mind start getting worn down and de-energized, you get tired and ultimately, numb. If that happens, you’ll have nothing left to give.
After I got married, my wife taught me something extremely valuable. She taught me how to honor my personal boundaries. She did this by honoring her own personal boundaries, and letting me know when I wasn’t honoring mine.
She spoke up when I offended her, and would use “I” statements with me, such as, “I was offended by what you just said. I feel bad when you say things like that.”
Comments like this really brought it home for me. I mean, to think I was causing the person I married to feel bad… that I did something to make them feel bad, made me feel bad! She could have pointed the finger at me and said, “How dare you say that! I can’t believe you would be so insensitive”, but she didn’t. She looked inward and asked herself how my behavior made her feel. Then she expressed how she felt to me, in turn giving me a chance to respond from a place of empowerment, not defensiveness.
Of course, doing this can still create a defensive posture, but at least it gives someone more of a chance to choose a response instead of having to react to an immediate put down or something. I got the chance to respond, and most of the time, it was a moment to reflect about what I said or did, and understand exactly what my intentions were.
This kind of communication is key in a relationship. It’s is a place of giving and receiving. She gave to me out of compassion, in the sense that she spoke what was true for her, deep down inside. She honored herself first, expressing what was going on inside of her, then “gave” to me the opportunity to honor myself too, so that I could express what was going on inside of me.
She gave me the gift of compassion, by allowing me to be myself. And, the more I practiced that, the more compassionate I felt. The more compassionate you grow towards yourself, the more compassionate you can be towards others.
And when you are compassionate, giving is easy. But it start inside you. If you don’t have the energy to give to others, then you aren’t being compassionate towards yourself. This is where to begin.
Thank you for listening to another episode of The Overwhelmed Brain.
I thank Fran, Wanda, Adrienne, Holly, Tracey, Richard, Ted, Arturo, Lisa, Grace, Scott, and Darby for writing to me and supporting the show, each in your own way. And if I didn’t call your name, just know that I appreciate you and thank you for being there for me, listening, learning, and growing.
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I also want to thank the many listeners who are using the link theoverwhelmedbrain.com/amazon. If you find this show valuable to you, just say Thank You, by using that link before you make a purchase. You are making a difference. And, it’s going towards a good cause: You.
Giving, contributing, volunteering, whatever you call it, is one way to get back. Giving seems like it will be uncomfortable or too much effort sometimes, and it can be, but when you do it authentically, and really want to help, while still maintaining who you are and keeping that balance between being compassionate and not compromising your personal boundaries, you will have a wonderful formula to receive the gifts that are guaranteed to come back to you.
When you treat giving as getting, you win as soon as you give. Whatever you give. Even a smile is a gift, so remember there’s always a way.
And most important of all, I believe in you. You are worthy and can do anything you decide to do. You have a light inside that shines brightly, and when you see you as the phenomenal person I see, you’ll soon realize the truth, that you are amazing.