I ride the Colorado Springs city bus two days a week to get to my internship. After a few weeks, the first bus driver asked me if I was catching the next bus on the route. He then offered to radio ahead to that bus and ask them to wait for me so I wouldn’t need to be waiting in the cold. A part of me was honestly shocked; coming from Chicago, where millions of people ride public transportation each day, this would never have happened. In Chicago, you were pressured to tend your own needs and because there were so many people around you it often felt impossible to tend to anyone else’s. But, the truth is, that’s what we tell ourselves. I believe we all are offered these moments to give if we are looking for them.
You see someone drop something and you point it out to them or pick it up and return it to them. You see an elderly person carrying their groceries and you offer to help. You have a friend going through a challenging time and you phone them. You give someone in need the change from your pocket. You allow yourself to be of service and you seek out ways to express our human connection. I think we can all recall a time when we have done this or have been on the receiving end of another person’s kindness.
Kindness usually costs little to nothing monetarily, but yet it’s often far-reaching. While we can never know how it impacts those it’s offered to, we can see how it changes the giver. Giving is a mindset. Offering is a mindset. Being present for others is a mindset. And when our mindset reflects these qualities, there is less room for selfishness, self-involvement, or lack of awareness. I believe this is what so many of us strive for, and yet it can be difficult to truly live from this place.
In which area of your life do you find yourself to be a giver? Is giving comfortable for you? For some, giving is tied to an expectation; where we expect something in return. Have you ever held the door for someone who then didn’t thank you? That anticipated thank you is actually an expectation. What that means is that we are not freely giving. It also likely means we’re making our giving mean something about ourselves. We tell ourselves by giving we are generous. We’re thoughtful. We’re considerate. And, we expect that to be recognized in some way by the receiver. Yet, if we are freely giving, it’s as simple as that- we give. We’re not telling ourselves anything about ourselves; not expecting anything in return, just living in that moment and offering to another. Alright, so if we’re being honest here, how does that change your response to how comfortably you give?
In reality, we often rely on others’ reactions to form our opinions of ourselves. We recall how others respond to us; how they engage with us (or don’t). We tend to concern ourselves with the possible judgments of others, and thus we judge others as well. It’s a cycle within our society that really serves to minimize each of us. We begin to put limits or pressures on ourselves based on our perceived reactions or engagements with others, thus stifling our genuine nature. Can you think of an area of your life where you feel pressure to be a certain way? Where your reactions or choices are altered by the expectations you feel others hold for you? It’s truly amazing that any parts of our genuine selves shine through when we really stop and consider these possibilities. So, when we imagine all of this and then consider our comfortableness with giving, it likely changes even more.
As I often write- awareness is the key. Without awareness, we can’t have these honest conversations with ourselves to heal the wounds that restrict our ability to freely be ourselves and to give to others from that place. When we experience judgment, we need to call it out. When we feel oppressed, we need to seek support. And, when we catch our selves holding judgment or expectations on another, we need to offer ourselves self-compassion, acknowledge the ‘why,’ and continue to break free so that we can give of our true selves.