Do you judge yourself as too generous? I think this can make a person who already feels unappreciated feel even worse. I’d rather celebrate my generosity and then I feel appreciated!
I recently had a dream that an old friend, who lives far away, was visiting us in Rochester. For the first day she was visibly distressed and antsy. She was juggling two small babies so Ted and I pitched right in remembering what it was like to long for extra hands. We offered her space to be comfortable, talk, and have a break, trying to anticipate what she needed.
She barely slept the first night. The next morning she pulled me into a corner to talk. I was ready to open my heart to whatever was distressing her. I did not expect what she said next.
She was worried about me. She said that she saw me sacrificing and trying to please people. She worried that I was not taking care of myself. I smiled at her lovingly, touched by the love implicit in her words.
I said, You can give and be a victim of it, and you can give and not be a victim of it. I am not a victim of it. Whatever I do for someone else, I know I do it for me and if I do for me, I do for someone else. So neither has value over the other.
Can you be too generous? There is no difference
I do for myself just as readily as I do for others. And sometimes I exercise my limits and say no. To both. So how can I be too generous?
I believe in people so much and I know what they feel is temporary and will pass. Believing in them is much more helpful for them than getting myself in a tizzy when they are upset. Also, I somehow understand that I will have infinite opportunity to contribute. If not this moment, there will be another. And each of the moments have equal value.
But I also keep in mind that challenges allow people growth. I wouldn’t want to take away someone’s opportunity by jumping in there and doing the work for them, just like I would never do my kids homework for them. Plus modeling boundaries helps teach other to have boundaries.
If I am not free in a particular moment, I can always at least send them a quick intention for peace.
Can’t be too generous with peace
On the other hand, I’m not perfect. I may say no to myself more often than I want and decide to adjust.
If I say no to others too much, I check myself then, too.
I think of a story that made quite an impression on me. I heard it so long ago that I cannot remember where. I couldn’t find the story, nor anyone who ever heard of it, so I will do my best to represent it as I remember it.
Edited: Bonnie from Rochester told me this is a version of the book, Martin the Cobbler, by Leo Tolstoy. Thanks Bonnie!
A woman had a dream where Jesus said that he would visit her that very day. When she woke, she began to prepare the house overjoyed at the prospect of Christ’s visit. About mid morning her doorbell rang. She ran to the door, but it was a traveler passing through looking for a rest and a drink. The woman gave him a quick rest and a drink and shooed him back on his journey so that she would be available for Jesus when he came.
Around noon, her doorbell rang again and she ran to answer it. When she opened the door, her eyes fell on a worn and tattered beggar. He asked if she had any food to spare. And quickly she packed him up a lunch to go, and sent him on his way, hoping she’d be free for Jesus when he came.
You never know
In the afternoon, the doorbell rang again. Finally! She thought. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door with a welcoming smile. But behind the door, she found an old man who had lost his way. After she settled the man in a chair, she called the police to help him safely find his way home to his family, so that she might be available for her special visitor.
She waited and waited all evening, when finally, full of disappointment, she went off to bed.
Again, she dreamed of Jesus. She asked, Why did you not visit me?
Jesus answered, I came three times to your home today. I was the traveler, the beggar and the old man.
Too generous indeed
I have more than 80 people I meet with, exchange emails with, text and phone in any given week. Aside from about 20 “regulars”, it is a NEW 80 the next week. For each of them, this is their big reach out against the problem. A huge step for them to ask for help. They don’t see themselves as one of 80. They are one. If I treat them as 1 of 80, they will be crushed. If I think of each one of them as Spirit showing up as my guest, then I see each one as a invitation to what Spirit wants me to attend to today.
When I ignored them and said, I don’t have time to be with you, I am busy writing a book to save the world, aren’t I just like the woman in the story?
I don’t have time for you Jesus, I am waiting for the real Jesus.
There is no *real* Jesus in this sense. We are all Jesus.
Giving can be healing
At a workshop a few weeks ago, the teacher said that you cannot give advice if you are “not clean”. I didn’t agree. Sometimes this is the case. If person 1 is wrapped so much in his own story, they may not be present for person 2’s story. The advice person 1 gives is probably more for themselves than for person 2.
It is also possible though, that when we reach out and join with others, we heal us both. When we heal ourselves, we heal others and when we heal others, we heal ourselves.
My turtle healer
One day many years ago, while on a retreat, I was having a horrible day. The haunts of my teenage years were coming up and out of me. Later I would appreciate it as a great healing experience to unload those negative emotions that were stuck in me for so long, but in the moment it felt overwhelming. I felt alone and devastated by my grief.
After the morning session, I was making a beeline for the parking lot and the sanctuary of my car, where I could re-gain control by literally driving away.
Just get me out of here.
I couldn’t walk fast enough. And started to run.
Not 20 feet from my car I found a tiny turtle. I stopped in my tracks and bent down to have a look. She looked dried and I thought she was dead until I noticed a small movement. I picked her up and noticed a huge (relative to the turtle) piece of gravel in her eye. Plucking it out and pouring a bit of water from my bottle on her in my palm, I began to see more signs of life. I carried her up the lunch room and put her in a bowl of water, where she actually became lively.
My troubles forgotten.
Twelve hours of tears ended abruptly. I was 100% me again. There was nothing I had to figure out, there was nothing for me to do, the pain was gone, my heart no longer constricted.
In loving the turtle, I felt connected, purposeful, and distracted. I got out of the stories in my head about me messing up and being invisible, as I took action in saving the turtle.*
*Yes, we let her go back into the stream, and she swam away happily.
I told some other retreatants and one of them caringly told me, “Soon you will heal for yourself instead of the turtle.” I smiled and thanked her.
She was giving me her love, but her message was for her not me.
I am the turtle. The turtle is me. We are not separate. How can I be too generous when there is oneness.
I absolutely healed for me and I was free.
Shared by Jen Dietrich and Steve Aman
How do you regulate your generosity?