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Archive for September 29th, 2009

Giving because you want to give is good; finding gratitude, attention, love, empathy, appreciation or someone giving in return is a bonus. The main thing is not to require any of those things in exchange for what you give. If you do, you may well be disappointed and eventually become resentful. This is a sad consequence but often an unavoidable one if we are relying on other people’s behaviour or reactions to match our fantasies and expectations. It is particularly unfortunate if the whole well of giving is poisoned in the process.

M Scott Peck said in “The Road Less Travelled” (1990) that he had

a colleague who often tells people, ‘Look, allowing yourself to be dependent on another person is the worst possible thing you can do to yourself. You would be better off being dependent on heroin. As long as you have a supply of it, heroin will never let you down; if it’s there, it will always make you happy. But if you expect another person to make you happy, you’ll be endlessly disappointed.’

The person wasn’t suggesting taking heroin was a good idea, but merely making the point that being dependent on other people to shape how we feel or to create our happiness is not productive – in fact, it is doomed to failure.

The only things we really have any control over are our own attitudes and behaviours – other people’s are usually beyond our sphere of influence except very temporarily, if then.

So, to go back to giving, the best we can do is to give when and what we want to give and to stay in the moment, getting our fix from the giving (ie what is in our control), not immediately attaching to it an expectation or hope of an outcome or return, which would not be in our control. Not requiring an outcome or return is probably one of the most valuable contributions to our own happiness that we can make.

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