10 December, 2009

Selfishness and Giving

On an airplane a few weeks back, I was sharing with my partner about how much I loved my family’s Christmas traditions – the getting together, the reading of the Christmas story, all of the playful hijinks, and always, always, always the discovery of who will now hold the honor of receiving a rather sadly-made version of Mary & Joseph that has been passed around within our extended family for something like 15 years now
(along with the more recent addition of their accompanying “travel diary”).  But I think I may have surprised him when I also told him about my selfishness and why Christmas had, in years past, been somewhat of a let-down for me because of my expectations around gift giving (or to be more precise, gift receiving).

Don’t get me wrong – I love to give to others.  I love to give my time, my support, my money, and unexpected gifts as an expression of my love.  For the better part of my life I’ve been a giver and I’ve learned that giving does return a joy to me that surpasses other joys I’ve known.  But being a giver has never changed the fact that I am also selfish!

In many ways, I think that being selfish has served me well in life, allowing me to see that if I don’t first ensure that my “cup is full,” I will have nothing left to give to others.  I can’t take care of another if I can’t first take care of myself.  If I’m not ensuring my own mental and emotional stability, how am I to help another in need?  In that vein, I believe that being selfish is something that more people should learn.  Not a selfishness that just takes – but a selfishness that takes care of one’s own needs first.

In reflecting on the upset I felt related to gift-receiving, or lack thereof, I realized that a very simple shift in my expectations could make a world of difference for me and transform my upset into complete joy.  In the past, when it came time to open my presents, I was focused on the number of presents I received.  I was also focused on the gifts themselves and not on the hearts of those who had given to me.  This could have possibly been due to the obligatory nature that I felt events such as Christmas and birthdays represented for me.  Those had both come to represent times in which I felt a need to give out of obligation rather than giving solely out of my love for another.

My shift in view was simply to choose to give to others out of my heart’s desire to bless them.  Coupling that view-point with choosing to expect nothing from anyone, I realized that anything I received would be a welcomed sign of love and affection on the part of any who gave.

Armed with my new points-of-view, I am now ready for Christmas – one filled with the love and joy of being with my family and friends whom I adore.
[End of Post]

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