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January 9, 2014
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Purpose, Sharing

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I believe that one’s purpose in life is to leave this world different than how you entered… transformed…changed. The way to change consistently is by going against your nature and your most basic nature is desire to receive for the self alone. To go against this nature you must do its opposite, which is to share, share and then share some more. Through acts of sharing, we are transforming into our very best selves. We all know the opposite of giving is receiving. Without anyone to receive, how can we share? Perfectly sensible, yet, I have a real block when it comes to receiving. It’s laughable when you think about it, I believe that the purpose of life is sharing and yet I don’t want to find myself on the receiving end of generosity. Someone has to be the recipient of all this sharing! I just want it to be other people.

Recently I was traveling alone with my infant daughter Abigail. I was literally flying solo. If you’re curious what that entails here is a brief list of things I can’t do while holding a 3-month-old:

  • detach and close a snap & go stroller
  • hold my tea
  • stow my bag and the baby’s bag
  • go to the bathroom

Once onboard, I was in a middle seat with Abigail on my lap. In the middle of breastfeeding I began an epic battle of wills with my headset (I wasn’t going to sit there for 20 minutes doing nothing). I wasn’t about to ask for help, so I’m shifting, and nudging them with my nose trying to get them into position, all while trying not to disturb Abigail. The lady beside me was remarkably kind and helpful, graciously reaching in to help with my headset. I think she took pity on me, like I was a dog who couldn’t reach a food bowl! Throughout the flight she and my other seat mate reached over unasked to assist or hold something for me and Abigail. 

They were wonderful and I was beyond grateful, but I was also literally sweating from discomfort, not from physical discomfort, but the kind that comes from being looked after. I’m really uncomfortable receiving. And I know I’m not the only one. All of our stories, or our issues from past lifetimes or this lifetime, makes us sensitive as to how we receive help. I’m extremely sensitive about the way I ask for and receive help.

It’s difficult to say when it started. Obviously, when I was a baby like Abigail receiving was my nature. But we have no choice in the matter at that age. Over time I learned to dislike it. I remember a certain relative who, if she gave you something, at some point you were going to have to pay her back. No matter how small the gesture, you were going to OWE her in ways that I wasn’t entirely willing to.  The reciprocity dynamic is the idea that if you give me something I have to reciprocate, giving back something we both agree is of equal value. However, as with my relative, some people have a skewed perspective on what constitutes an equal gesture! There are a lot of score keepers in the world and I don’t want to incur the judgment of someone who is keeping track and perceives me as indebted.

Receiving help is also uncomfortable, because if we feel that we can offer nothing back in terms of an equal gesture, then the payment becomes giving up our power and control. This is a very natural state when you consider small children and their parents. The parents give and the children simply receive, and in that dynamic the parents have all the power. It’s the natural order of things. However, when applied to adult relationships we see how negative and potentially abusive this can become, consider slaves and masters, tyrants and the oppressed and until not so long ago, even husbands over their wives (still to this day in some cultures). It’s no wonder we have an instinctive aversion to receiving help!

Finally, I don’t want to take from anyone because I don’t want to get used to it. It seems foolish and dangerous to depend on the assistance of others, because I have a negative belief system that you can’t trust or rely on people, because some people are not trustworthy or reliable. (I’m working on this.) Also, my ego would rather be totally self-sufficient. I want to do it myself. I don’t want to need so why would I ask for help? Perhaps this is why Virgos don’t ask for help, or don’t like to anyway.

For all of the reasons above, the assistance and sharing of my seat mates left me sweating.

Now, let me tell you about my alter ego, the guy sitting across the aisle from me who had a 9-month-old baby, and was also traveling alone. First, he didn’t even have a diaper bag with him. I can’t explain that. Maybe he had an extra diaper shoved in his back pocket somewhere, but even then he would need more than one. If he did, I never saw it. But he was utterly unconcerned. Relaxed. When he had to go to the bathroom he nonchalantly asked if someone could hold his baby. He was able to receive help in an effortless manner. We couldn’t have been less alike!

I like to look at definitions. Often they are very illuminating. For instance, in the definition below of give, the word voluntarily is used. I think that’s a really important concept.

give: verb
1. to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; bestow: to give a birthday present to someone.
2. to hand to someone: Give me that plate, please.
3. to place in someone’s care: If you give me your coat, I’ll put it in the closet.

receive: verb
1. to take into one’s possession (something offered or delivered): to receive many gifts.
2. to have (something) bestowed, conferred, etc.: to receive an honorary degree.

Giving and receiving are both verbs, both actions. When we give we do it voluntarily, we choose with whom to share, when we want to share, what we are going to give, where, and how much or how frequently. We are completely in control of our giving. When we receive, we are in essence not in control. We can’t control what people offer us or how they show kindness. This is a major source of discomfort when it comes to receiving. You only have two choices, accept or reject. Often we reject. Think how many times someone has offered to pick up the check, or tried to take a heavy bag and carry it for you. “No, no! I’ve got it, but thank you!” we exclaim.

Allowing someone to help is really enabling them to share, to transform themselves, and be happier and more fulfilled. Think of this before you reject help and when you make an offer of assistance, don’t give up so easily if you meet with initial resistance.

THOUGHT TO ACTION:
Commit to accepting offers of help this week and when you make an offer of help, don’t take ‘no’ for an answer.


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