Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Giving Without Resentment

Thinking about giving, offering what we have and can give without endangering ourselves (ie.- truly sustainable giving.) Even a small offering of time, presence, material goods, compassion, skills etc. can truly touch and lift another.

Of course it gets complicated if giving is somehow mandatory (ruled by an inner "should.") Was rereading Gabor Mate's wonderful book When The Body  Says No. In it he says something like- if you have a choice between guilt and resentment, choose guilt, because resentment is soul-destroying.

Resentment arises when we give where or when we either really don't want to or it is truly not sustainable to do so. Guilt sometimes arises for some of us when we do not give where we have been taught we should (and some of us were taught we should give all of the time everywhere!) Giving can feel like a slippery slope for some of us if we feel that in giving anything we are obligated to give everything. But it's not true, and believing this leads to truly unsustainable giving (until we collapse) or refusing to give anything in a reacitve effort to protect ourselves (which robs us of the joy of giving and the other of what he or she might have received.)

Of course the catch is we need to stay deeply aware of our hearts and bodies so we know what we can or cannot give without detriment to ourselves or others. When conditions are stressful it's easy to disconnect from knowing what our inner and outer resources really are. It helps to develop a daily practice that brings us deeply in touch with ourselves.

Resentment can also arise where we are making a secret (as in largely unconscious) "deal" - for example, offering something to another in the hopes that we will be seen, loved, appreciated, praised or rewarded for giving. This one is tricky, because we can't be more conscious than we are, but if we find ourselves often feeling owed or misused where we are giving, there's a pretty good chance that we are expecting something in return. Explicit deals (as in- you can borrow my car if you pick me up at the airport at the end of the week) often work for everyone. Implicit, secret, unconscious or implied deals are likely to breed disappointment and resentment. Difficult for people to hold up their end of the bargain when they didn't know there was a deal being made.

Giving without resentment is a gift to both the receiver and the giver and truly one of the great joys of human life when it is clear, clean, without secret expectations or a sense of obligation beyond doing what we can. It is our nature to want to give what we can where it is needed. We are interdependent with each other, the planet and all life here. No one lives without giving and receiving. When we are aware of how frequently giving and receiving are in our lives, gratitude for both naturally arises and enriches our day.

Of course for some of us receiving is a bigger challenge than giving- but I'll mull that one over for next week's blog.

 (Thanks to Debbie Devine whose FB post last week started my mulling on this one.)

Oriah (c) 2013


  1. Oriah, You are by far one of the wisest women and tremendous authors I know. Believe me, that is saying a lot. Thank you for your wonderful musings and sharings. They enrich all who read your words to the wise. Lots of Love.~mare

    1. Thank you Marirose (What a beautiful and unusual name :-) )

  2. Thank you so much for this. Thank you so much for everything.

    I see this type of giving that leads to resentment with a lot of people who mean well including myself. But I have also noticed many mothers who, out of love and care for their children, do when to many things and get too involved to the point where their displays of love become too overwhelming. In giving too much, they burn themselves out. And being burned out for too long, they become resentful.

    As a teacher I see this happen all too often with myself, my coworkers, parents, and even family members. I've come to the point where I realize the importance of boundaries so that you can love better, not so that you love less, which is what people often believe boundaries are for. The more I have read about Buddhism tomorrow deeply appreciated it because it has taught me to take care of myself, being a good place, and truly love who and what I am before I can give myself to others. That's a very difficult thing to do.

    But I've come to realize that, as Thich Nhat Hanh said, "A happy teacher can change the world." By that token, an unhappy one can help destroy the worlds of our young people. But it's not only for teachers – a happy person is More effective at whatever they choose to do whether it is helping others or doing a good job at work. It influences everyone around you when you are in a good place in your life or in a bad one. And then, ruining or brightening someone else's day, they can then do the same. In a podcast, Thich Nhat Hanh is pretty blunt about it, which I appreciate, saying that if you are not happy, frankly, you're "useless" to those around you.

    I have always been a deeply spiritual person. However, having grown up In an abusive household, the son of a Pentecostal preacher, it has not been an easy journey. It was with great pleasure that I came across your books last year and your poems. They are so moving and speak to me in so many ways. I thank you for peeling the layers back and letting us see some of the honest, truthful, and even painful parts of yourself.

    I have purchased nearly a dozen of each of your books that I have been sharing with my students (I work at my old high school near East Los Angeles - having moved from Canada at 7). I can't tell you how eager these young minds are to hear some of the things you have to say. Nobody else in their lives seem to be talking about it. And if they are, it's not in the same way. I think what I love more than anything about your writing is the mixture of honesty, real down to earth, messy, nitty gritty living, but also living with an sense of ideal, even romanticism, and love.

    I'm so grateful for all your words and inspiration have done for me and continue to do for others. I'm also so proud of you for staying true to what burns inside of you. And for encouraging us to do the same. I could write on and on, burning to share my wonderful journey, but I'll just end by saying that its wonderful to read the words of a kindred spirit. Someone who speaks to you and seemingly translates your heart ad souls language in a way that helps you better understand yourself.

    Thank you.

    John D

    1. John, thank you so much for this (and for sharing the books!) I love this: "the importance of boundaries so that you can love better, not so that you love less. . . ." YES!

      And you are right about the overwhelm that some giving can create- will mull this over furthur for next week's thoughts on the challenges of receiving.

  3. Jesus has commanded us to love others AS ourselves, not to love others LESS than ourselves, but not to love others MORE than ourselves, either.

    "Giving" can also be a passive aggressive manipulative attempt to gain control when it is used to make others feel indebted.

    Over-giving is as pathological as selfishness, it is the dynamic that sustains co-dependence.

    1. The way I often think of this is that when we are drawing a circle to consider a situation and how we can bring compassion to all involved- we need to make sure we are INSIDE that circle of consideration along with everyone else.

  4. wise and beautiful... thank you:-)