You and I have a problem. We live in a world that teaches too little about how to be happy and instead encourages self-indulgence, mediocrity, and instant gratification. We are surrounded by emotional and spiritual immaturity. There is a lack of understanding of how to love and a lack of capacity to take responsibility. Our best defense is to become aware of this problem and make better choices.
The world is filled with unhappy people. Unfortunately this unhappiness is supported by behaviors and attitudes that are seen as virtuous. For example, it is common to be selfish, to think of what you can gain from any given situation without considering the other person. “It’s a dog eat dog world. Let them fend for themselves.” This attitude is considered virtuous, even brave. People are afraid of being alone and unprotected. They are afraid of not having enough. Often people do not trust that others care about their well being. This fear actually creates the reality. If you fear others do not care, you tend not to care yourself. This causes others to respond in kind. It is a vicious circle. Instead of being motivated to help those who need, people tend to withdraw. People become selfish and self-serving.
Self-centeredness is like is a contagious disease. We are vulnerable to this “disease” which can express itself in very subtle ways. For example, when conducting business do you regard people impersonally? Have you ever heard that impersonal tone over the telephone from a clerk, secretary, or receptionist? Have you ever been solicited by a salesperson with the feeling that you are just another sale? Have you ever had a “friendly” conversation with someone and you felt the friendliness was not genuine? Have you experienced the feeling that others are giving you lip service? Does this sound familiar?
Often people hoard their love, not wanting to share it for fear that it will be snatched from their very hearts. The result is a world where many feel alone in their own families, in their own churches, in their own jobs, in the supermarket — everywhere. This is often a world where real feelings are avoided. Real feelings might lead to intimacy. Intimacy might lead to love. Love can be lost. The risk is too great. The solution for this fear of losing love is to play act through life, collect as much as you can. Make sure that you network as many non-offensive, non-intimate relationships as you can to call upon in times of need. Don’t really give from the heart. Do not accept love if it happens to come your way. Do you think this is an exaggeration? You might consider spending some time observing yourself and others.
This is a real tragedy of our times. And it is our own personal problem. It is like a fear of breathing — a holding of breath much like one would in an emergency. Imagine being so tense and fearful of not being loved that you actually restrict your breathing. This actually happens. When you do this not only are you restricting your breath, you are restricting the flow of giving and receiving–the breath of loving. Giving and receiving is like breathing. The love and giving must come to you and the love and giving must flow from you. It is a natural process–a process instinctive to us all. It must indeed be a great state of emergency to stop this natural process. Imagine what prolonged shallow breathing can do to you. Every cell in your body is robbed of life giving oxygen. Imagine what limited giving and receiving from the heart can do to you. Your entire psyche and spirit becomes robbed of the life giving expression of love.
Giving and receiving is not a logical function. If you try to put it on the level of practicality, you instantly lose its life giving effects. Negotiated giving and receiving automatically robs you of life. Your giving and receiving must be from one heart to another. Not from one mind, body, or place to another. Your giving and receiving must be balanced. As you breathe in and out, so you must give and receive.
Imagine people working together constantly giving and receiving on all levels. See them as breathing in harmony. One minute one gives to another while being open to receiving back. The next minute another gives back while remaining open to receiving back again. See this interaction as happening on emotional, spiritual, and physical levels. Sometimes it manifests in an exchange of ideas. Sometimes it manifests in an exchange of things. Sometimes it manifests in an exchange of courtesies. Sometimes it manifests as physical interchange. Always it manifests with an exchange of love and loving intent. Imagine the atmosphere of that place filled with friendly cooperation. Feel a sort of sparkle in the air of mutual desire for the others’ happiness and well being. Feel the air breathing with the ebb and flow of generous giving and receiving. No one person is just the giver. No one person is just the receiver. There are no given roles of “givers” and “receivers.” All give. All receive. All breathe with ease. Their bodies thrive with oxygen. Their spirits radiate with healthy love. Now envision yourself in such an environment. See how good and alive you feel!
You are the one to begin the giving and receiving. You can break the patterns of heartless relating. Begin by giving from your heart. If you cannot find your heart, begin by acting as though you are coming from your heart. You will start to feel it. You won’t be able to help it. And allow yourself to receive back when it comes. It will. Much of your happiness depends on your willingness to create loving environments for yourself. Breathe in and out. Give with your heart and let the love flow back into your heart. If you think you already do this, do it more.