As Bill Murray’s character Frank Cross said in ‘Scrooged’ (one of my favourite Christmas movies — I couldn’t even count the number of times I’ve seen it) when he was receiving the award for humanitarian of the year – “Sometimes I’d find myself hurting, from giving too much. And I’d say, stop it.”. The irony being that all he gave was a company branded face cloth to his employees. The gift that keeps on giving.
So I got to thinking what this giving lark is all about.
At it’s simplest you give something in response to a request for help. Someone asks for something and you give it. Someone asks for a fish and you give ‘em a fish. Someone else asks for a song and you give ‘em a song.
It’s not just restricted to fishes and songs (or songs about fishes) — the most stunning example of this was when I read about a guy who asked for help after he wrote off his car in a horrible car accident. He asked for help taking care of his bills and people responded.
The guys at Men with Pens then raised the prickly issue of whether you’d have enough courage to ask for help in the same situation, and in my confidence work I’ve learned that the resounding answer is No. People have a hard time asking for help for all kinds of reasons – they fear ridicule, they fear looking weak, they fear that it takes away from what they’ve achieved and they fear people saying No in response.
People fear being rejected and being alone, but have learned so much independence that they play a solo instead of joining the orchestra.
James is right in his article, it doesn’t have to be that way (and he came up with a brilliant idea to help change things). Sure, people have a heap of issues around asking for help but people have an equally sized heap of issues around giving – and that’s where I want to go with this post.
There’s obviously a big emphasis on giving at Christmas, but like puppies, I don’t think this particular human trait should be just for Christmas. As Brett Legree says over at 6 Weeks, “Give, and give again – even if they don’t ask for help.”
Giving is one of humanities most amazing abilities.
And we all have it.
It has the potential to change the world if only we’d figure out how to do it consistently and gracefully.
But people have a hard time giving in the right ways and I think there are 3 reasons for that –
1. They’re too wrapped up in their own stuff to notice when or where they can give.
2. They feel self-conscious about giving – they feel silly or awkward because they don’t know how to give or a part of them feels like it’s not appropriate.
3. They fear that what they give will be rejected.
Notice how similar those reasons are to the reasons people don’t ask for help? Just thought I’d point that out. :-O
It takes guts to give.
You have to trust yourself that you’re giving in the right spirit – not to get back but simply because you’re able to give.
You have to trust that even if what you give is rejected, it doesn’t stop you from giving again.
You have to trust that giving doesn’t take away from what you have and who you are, but adds to it.
You have to trust that giving is valuable, even when it appears thankless.
And that trust takes self-confidence.
Like all these things, there’s a balance to be struck. Don’t become a bottomless pit of giving, where your self-worth becomes tied in to how much you give to others. I’ve worked with some habitual bottomless pits in my time, and it’s a tough habit to break.
Don’t give to get validation back – that’s entirely the wrong spirit.
The right spirit is to give without expectation of reciprocity and to give the right things. Don’t give someone a private jet in the hope that they’ll give you a 70ft yacht in return (although if you have a spare jet or yacht lying around I won’t say no). Instead, give unconditionally of the following things –
1. Your time.
Time is precious, and giving someone your time is hugely valuable. Take a couple of hours to help a friend out with something they’re working on. Take time to call a family member or put time aside to have a cup of coffee with someone who could use a friendly ear.
2. Your attention.
Giving someone your attention can make all the difference in the world. I’m afraid to say that sometimes when I’m with a friend I’ll find myself drifting off and thinking about other stuff, tuning out of where I am and what’s being said. Giving your attention let’s people know they’ve been heard, and it’s gold dust.
3. Your resources.
Giving someone your resources is about giving what’s appropriate. This doesn’t have to be about things – money, objects, gifts, etc – but can be about giving the resources you have in abundance – your strengths, talents and values. If you’re great at something offer to help someone out where they might be struggling. If you know a way for someone to get a great result, offer to help out. Give what you’re naturally good at (just don’t be smug about it).
Giving of yourself without expectation or attachment is what raises you from a mammal to someone who’s embracing what it is to be human and participating fully in the world.
So tell me, what can you give, today?