My favorite book as a child was The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. It’s about the relationship between a boy and a tree (yes – a tree). The tree gives everything to the little boy – its apples, its leaves, its branches and even its trunk. At the end, the boy, who is now an old man, comes back and the tree, having nothing else to give, straightens up her stump to provide a place for him to sit.
I loved that story when I was a kid. I believe it had a profound impact on the way I have lived most of my life – giving until it hurts, giving when there is nothing left to give. giving until you are angry and resentful at others and at yourself. Sound familiar?
What I Know Now About Giving and Receiving
I have learned a lot about giving, receiving and being kind to myself. Even as an adult, “The Giving Tree” keeps teaching me more and more.
The first thing I learned:
- Give until it hurts and they will come back.
The second thing I learned:
- The tree is a metaphor for the Universe and the boy represents humanity. The boy is just doing what the Divine gives us power and grace to do…ask and receive.
The third thing I learned:
- We are both the tree (Divine) and the boy (human). We can both receive and give generously.
Patterns in Giving and Receiving
If this is true and we can give and receive generously, then how do we choose to embody this principle? I believe the first step is to become aware of when you are giving until it hurts. Recognizing all those ways we are being unkind to ourselves in order to be kind to others.
Here are some of the patterns I have noticed:
- You say “yes” when you really mean “no.”
- You feel that everyone else is more important than you are.
- You have trouble asking for help (and receiving it).
- You constantly worry that you aren’t doing or being enough.
- You seem to live your life waiting for it to be your time.
New Day, New Pattern
Once we have the awareness that we are in one of our patterns, that is the moment we can bring more consciousness to our experience. Being conscious is not a hypothetical situation. You have to choose to participate in your own consciousness.
So, when you start to notice that you are returning to one of your over-giving patterns, you can simply pause and ask yourself: “What would I do, say or be if I knew that I was enough?”
Then you can take action on that answer. Being truly generous with others always begins with generosity to yourself. In deciding that I was going to give freely both to myself and others, I had to choose to express myself differently. Last week, someone asked me how I was doing. My first reflex was to answer with the standard, “Good, and you?” – when I stopped. Then I expressed how I was truly feeling and what was going on in my life. At the end of the conversation, that person thanked me for being honest and sharing. Most of us don’t do this because we are afraid of being vulnerable, taking up people’s time or seeming needy.
You may find that it will take some focus and energy to rework your giving and receiving patterns, but in the end, you will be a much happier individual and a more generous human being.