Someone told me once, bring a gift for everyone, every time you see them. I think this is a great piece of advice.
If you are thinking that this is impossible, realise that giving doesn’t have to involve physical objects. In fact, in my experience, it is better for it not to be. Give a smile or a kind thought, hug a crying friend, open a door for a stranger, work to forgive those who hurt you, say a silent prayer when you drive past an accident. That way, we never run out, and we never get tired.
Why? This is a step towards one of the most transformative spiritual practices of all – the simple decision to be kind, easy-going, and forgiving to everyone, including oneself.
If you believe in the idea that we are all one consciousness, that the idea of “me” is just an illusion of separation, then this is a practice that dissolves that boundary between self and not-self. When we give, no longer are we thinking of ourselves. No longer are we the tiny ego, the small self, the selfish person. If we are genuinely kind, we become – for that brief moment – connected to something far bigger, far more majestic.
Other teachings say that whatever you give comes back to you, since we are all interconnected. If we all swim in the same ocean, then whatever we spread outwards also affects us. Would you put kindness or hatred into the ocean that you yourself swim in?
This can have psychological benefits too – caring for a beloved pet is a proven effective way to reduce depression. Giving kindness, whoever the recipient is, makes you feel better.
If you don’t believe in any of this, then you will have lived a kind and generous life for its own sake.
We cannot give with expectation of a reward. Not even a “thank you”. It is very easy to fall into the trap of giving for the sake of receiving. And this “temptation” returns again and again. When I first made the decision to be kind to everyone, I did it without any expectations of return, which is how it should be. But over the months that followed, I noticed how everyone reacted to me – people treated me kindly, went out of their way for me, gave me lots of approval. This was something I craved, so this temptation had come back in – I wanted their affection and approval, and that had contaminated my kindness. It was kindness at first, but became corrupted further down the road.
In fact, there were deeper levels to this false giving. This kindness came from a secret feeling of worthlessness. That I will not be liked for who I am, so at least I will be liked for my giving. This was unknown and hidden from me at first, and can be quite hard to see, so look especially hard for similar motivations in yourself.
Even worse, false giving won’t heal any deeper insecurities you might have. In my case, it didn’t heal my hidden sense of worthlessness at all – because the appreciation and kindness I got back never reached it. If YOU give from a mask, then the appreciation YOU get only reaches that mask, and not my heart.
This just leads to more frustration, and a deepening insecurity. Sometimes we even hate ourselves for our false giving, because on some level, we know it isn’t genuine.
This simple decision can be hard at times; it is something that I am still practicing. But the more I practice, the more I see the truth in the old saying – happiness comes not from being loved, but from loving. Loving is its own reward.
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