To give and not expect return, that is what lies at the heart of love.
Blessed are those who are able to give without remembering and to take without forgetting.
Give to others builds human spirit. Every act of generosity and the willingness to give of our time, our interest, concern, care, understanding, humour, loyalty conveys and nourishes love. And every missed opportunity to give and to be generous destroys our experience of love, connectedness and spirit.
In giving, it hardly matters if the love that is expressed is personal or impersonal. Being eager to give to someone who we know is wonderful. It can intensify our feelings of connection with that person. Although to give to someone who we don’t know may be less immediately rewarding, yet it expresses our awareness that other human lives matter, and the extent to which they matter is not determined by their closeness or usefulness to us.
The most intellectual healthy individuals in every community are those who are able to give without feeling diminished by generosity. They are less imprisoned by the illusion that to give something away freely leaves us with any less. They are least likely to live as slaves, protecting their own private multitude of treasures. And they may also be least mislead by the illusion that the material possessions are something that we can own on permanent basis, and to regard for safety.
The notion to give is an expression of freedom and abundance. It is a celebration of sufficiency. When done with love, it is connective, enriching and uplifting.
The ability to give is built and conveyed through the most mundane moments as well as the most profound. It is the recognition of our common humanity, an acceptance that we are all part of humankind.
The willingness to give arises out of an intention to care way beyond the limits of our own self or the group to which we are immediately attached. It is expressed in these and a thousand other ways.
Keeping our capacity for loving relationship alive demands us to be willing to give, to be generous, to be flexible and to be tolerant.
When we engage with another person, whether this is at work, a love relationship, with a member of our immediate family or a neighbour, we hardly promise to be generous. Yet the ability to give within that relationship, or the absence of it, can actually determine the quality and durability of the connection.
Sometimes the money or time are given but they are given for the sake of the donor, and not because they are what the recipient wants. That is only too easy to understand, but it doesn’t support a loving relationship and often it’s not rewarding either. To give involves two parties, at least, and flows two ways. It is often subtle, and demands that the donor has the capacity to pay close and mindful attention to whoever else is involved in the interaction.
The rich and workaholic businessman who breaks down and weeps when his wife leaves him, and cries out ‘but I gave her everything she wanted!’ is not different from the rest of us. We all learn early on to replace things for time, and praise for close attention; to build up serve-serving excuses as to why we can rarely be available and attentive even to those we declare to love best. Yet what others require from us is what we ourselves can feel most starved of: To give and to get time in which love can be cherished, nurtured and conveyed.
To give freely doesn’t begin or end with the act of giving. What precede the act of giving is at least some awareness that generosity is an expression of love. And what needs to follow is a sense of letting the act go, detaching from it, moving on into the next moment, not hanging around for a reward, a prize, or even thanks. This flow of loving, to give freely, to move on, is difficult for most of us to live out. But to give without expectation of a reward or establishing a debt that the other person will then owe us, is painfully compromised from generosity. In the face of such a demand we could even question whether this is generosity at all. Surely the only authentic expression of being generous is to act, or to be present for someone, and not expect to make them pay?
To give to others, or emptying out our own needs for the sake of others, can be an addiction, a means to avoid facing our own fear of loneliness or emptiness. But each one of us deserve better than that. The experience to give and to receive can teach us so much subtlety and discernment, about the interplay of light with darkness, and darkness with light. If to give and to receive become severely out of balance, and giving continually wear us down, it is time to ask ourselves: What do I need? How can I replenish myself? In what way am I showing love to myself also? It could be also time to ask ourselves: How to give to others generously without feeling that I am creating a sense of burden, debt, or obligation? Could I give with less attachment to the object or the outcome, and perhaps receive with less attachment in return?
When it comes to helping others, we have to be especially careful. We have to reflect on our motives and our interests. Are we willing to give because it is gratifying to us, or because there is a reward of some kind? Or are we ready to give because we really want to help others? We have to do a great deal of self-inquiry to be able to tell; we have to contemplate every ripple of thought that goes through our mind. To be compassionate, we must learn to think well of ourselves and others. Therefore a bleeding heart, which sees other people as helpless, is not a sign of compassion.