When Giving Is Receiving Too


The petite woman gestured helplessly in front of me, her face twisted with pain and grief. “I got written up at work. They say my attitude’s bad. I’ve NEVER gotten written up before. I’m good at what I do. But I’m just so TIRED of people being nasty to me all the time. Why do I have to be nice to them, kiss up to them? When is it my turn? I want to scream ‘Somebody be nice to me for a change!’ ”

I replied, “What if when you were nice to people you really meant it? What if it stopped being ‘kissing up’ and became something you really wanted to do? For just five minutes at a time?”

It’s easy to be spiritual in serene surroundings, or in tune with like-minded people. But no matter what we learn in meditation class, at spiritual seminars, or from metaphysical books, the vast majority of us can easily shelve such thoughts when we’re “in the world,” especially the business world. We feel inundated by company politics, gossip by the water cooler, more work with fewer people and less time for simple humanity. The fact that “Dilbert” is one of today’s top comic strips is clear evidence of change in the workplace since 1980

With such an avalanche of challenge, the ability to truly interact with each other in the work-world can be compromised. Sometimes it gets down to the visceral, gritty level of “you owe me/I owe the boss/what do I have to do to climb the ladder?” That’s when we tend to barrel forward: head down, ready to rumble, and woe betide anyone who gets in our way!

This is especially true in a customer-directed business such as retail, banking, or the service industries. Not only do you have to deal with your boss and co-workers, but also there are perfect strangers demanding your time, your attention, your effort – and they probably want whatever they want NOW, no excuses, and don’t forget a smile and a ‘thank you’ because they’re good enough to give you their business . . .!

That kind of world can be a drain on anyone – but it doesn’t have to be. This is where being Awake is important: because with each moment, each contact, you can choose how you react, what you return. You can choose to freely give, instead of feeling “taken.”

It all comes down to turning your thoughts away from yourself, and putting them completely on the other person.

Is this hard? It can be. It involves turning away from our ego, the little voice of “me me me” inside us. This is radically different, the opposite of what the world encourages us to do: “Looking out for #1” . . . “It’s all about you” . . . “Where do you want to go today?” . . . “Indulge yourself” are examples of the multitude of catch phrases and ad slogans that tell us to put ourselves first. And they push us to be dissatisfied if we don’t get everything that we think we deserve, or are entitled to.

“But doesn’t being Ego-less mean getting stepped on?” some might say. Far from it. If anything, it’s empowering. Try this experiment:

Feel, just for one moment, what it is like to be complete. Give yourself a moment in which you have no needs, no wants, no desires of your own. Nothing is tugging or pulling at you. For just these few minutes, nothing in your life needs fixing. You’re just being. Serene. Easy. Nothing is wrong with you, and nothing ever was. You and your life simply Are, perfect in the moment.

Take that feeling of “not needing anything” and hold it. When you are concentrated in simply Being, the Ego loses its grip a little. The voices get softer.

Now, imagine turning your attention towards another person. Because you need nothing from them, but are complete in yourself, you have everything to give to them. To go to the example of the bank officer at the beginning of this story:

Stepping away from Ego gives the ability to completely concentrate on the person across the desk, to be completely open to what they need, completely loving of them for as long as they sit there. If they are troubled, or angry, the Ego-less person can be completely present for them, because nothing is needed from them – not their approval, not their kindness. Instead, you can give them your approval, your kindness. You can love them from that unconditional place that tells them, “nothing is wrong with you, and nothing ever was. Wherever you are right now, I can be here with you, and I will help you to get whatever you need.” It’s a completely different place from which to say, “Good morning. How can I help you?” Because you will find you really mean it.

Often, people will hear the difference immediately, see it in your face, your smile, the fact that you are “really there behind your eyes” for them. It will help them be Present for you. Your interaction with them will be changed. Even if they are still angry, upset, scared, whatever – when you come from that place of giving in your own heart, you will find that you don’t take in those upset feelings. You’ll understand that’s simply where the other person is at the moment.

Every day that you do this – turning your heart towards others, giving without worrying about the “me” voice inside – you will find your world changing. People will begin to return the kindness you radiate. People will want to go out of their way to give to you, because you inspire the giving. You will be one of those bright lights that make a true difference in the world

Even if you only succeed for five minutes on your first day, with one person, it’s a start. The next day, strive for ten minutes…two people. At the end of a week, try being ego-less for a whole hour. It is not easy – I know! But it’s the door that can open up treasures beyond measure.

When you feel you are not receiving enough – give first. Start the flow. And watch the magic grow.