Friday, November 12, 2010

Offering people what they want and not what we want

The last few days I am realizing that I tend to offer gifts that I would like to receive, but that others don't necessarily want. Rather than being helpful, I am upsetting them, or confusing them, or really, when I come down to it, trying to control them. Of course that doesn't go well. Not only do they not appreciate such gifts, our relationships go down hill. Especially if they don't have the courage to speak their truth and let me know what's going on.

This morning I had a call from a friend. I had sent her a couple of "spiritual" cards from the Osho Zen Tarot deck that really spoke to me. She was confused. She didn't understand them and didn't really care to. Her world view is very different from mine. Mine is internal; her's is external. She likes to go out and experience life without having to understand it. There's a lot to be said about that. I promised not to send her any more Osho cards.

Another example. For months I've been taking care of my neighbor's cat. My neighbor works long hours and I offered to let her cat in and out of the house. I love cats and I work from home, so I was happy to do it. Even though it was a bit time-consuming, I thought it was helpful and I would have loved someone doing that for me when I was working outside my home. But I realized recently that this "help" was not appreciated. I was getting too involved and my guess is that my neighbor was feeling controlled. I'm not sure about this, as we haven't spoken. She just asked me to not worry about her cat and took the spare key away.

While her lack of communication upset me, this was a good wake-up call. I do not want to intrude on someone's space. And I need to be clear about where I focus my time and energy. If someone asks me for help, I can decide if I wish to help. But I will be very careful about offering help that has not been requested. The golden rule of "doing unto others what you would have them do unto you" needs to be replaced by the platinum rule: Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.

Just because we like something doesn't mean that others will. Before we offer it to them, let's make sure that it's something that they actually want and would enjoy. If we're attached to their receiving our "gift" then we need to look at our own agenda and see what is really going on. Underneath our "generosity" is probably a wound that we need to heal.

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