There is a couple in my neighborhood that has a few stacked buckets, with shelves across them, at the end of their sidewalk. Throughout the week, as they prune their flowers, they fill several plastic cups with the flowers, and place them on the shelves. There is a sign that says, “Please take one.”
Over the years, I have taken a few cups. One day, while I was out walking, thinking about my passed dog, Permilia, there was a cup of magenta colored flowers. Magenta was Permilia’s spiritual color, in my mind. It made me smile and I brought a cup home with me. The other day, I had found myself suddenly slipped from my wonderful mood, and there was a bunch of orange and yellow beauties to whisk me back up into the clouds of joy. These wonderful folks could simply create a weekly bouquet for their own kitchen table, but instead, they choose to share with the rest of us.
It made me wonder- where do I freely share my beauty with the world without expectation? Are their places within myself that prefer to be selfish? And if so, is that selfishness actually serving my life, or is it keeping me from experiencing something greater?
It’s easy to see that, “me first,” mindset in others. Watching people run yellow lights, gobble up free samples, cut others in line, hurt others with our reactivity, throw away used garments, rather than donate to those in need… but what about when they simply hide away who they are born to be? When they isolate themselves, or cave in to fear, or shame themselves into a life of loneliness and un-fulfillment? Are these not also forms of selfishness? People who are selfish, in the typical way we think of selfishness, tend to hold a belief that they are owed something. Or, they have a fear that they can’t share because of past event losses that they have endured. But, if we extend our definition to include thinking of selfishness as hiding your light under a bushel, it can become a huge motivator.
So, one key factor that I believe keeps us from shining our light to its fullest, is when we do not take ownership of our actions. To me, it is selfish to inflict our emotional, triggered reactions on others. These are emotions that are not true to the circumstances, but rather, emotions of past events that are triggered by a current situation, and cause a reaction that seems extreme in the now. It’s as though a raging fire is living inside of us, behind door number one, and the person speaking to us, says something that we link to the event raging that fire, and we choose to open that door of fire, and not only blame them for it, but burn them with its contents. We are all doing this at moments in our life, and it can be reactions to events from as far back as birth that have kept that fire raging. To me, it is selfish for us to not be actively seeking to quell those flames, and heal what has been burned in its wake, within ourselves, and taking ownership for how it impacts others. An apology without sincere reflection, and genuine change, is often just abuse in its many forms. This may seem extreme to say, but when we lash out at someone in an unjustified way, this is indeed a form of abuse. We are not playing by known rules, but rather a set of carved pathways wired within us that the other person doesn’t realize are attached to a ticking bomb.
What allows us to move forward with our sharing of our authentic self? That is the question, isn’t it, that basically every self-help book addresses. The way I see it, it is a different answer for each person as far as which step is a forward step on their journey. I would wager to say though, that you can not move forward sharing something that you don’t know yourself, and thus to share our authentic selves, we have to bravely acknowledge and accept who that being is. We have to allow that being to breathe. We have to learn to hear its voice within ourselves, and respect it.
I often wonder what the world would be like if we were all willing to allow life to flow through our authentic selves. If we all laid down the weapons of our ego and embraced the self-less-ness being so bravely and freely given. I imagine the art, the social kindnesses, the acceptance, the love, and it makes me proud to be willing to be vulnerable, and celebrate the vulnerability of others.