I’m a good person. At least, I sure try to be. I admire my parents’ never-ending generosity, patience, kindness and love, and I try to emulate them anyway I can. You know that famous saying, “She’s the kind of person who would give you the shirt off her back?” I want to be that person! I want to be that good, that giving and that compassionate.
But I’m starting to wonder if giving is always good.
I believe in an abundant universe, with enough for everybody and everything in it to flourish. The further I travel down the path of self-acceptance, the more I realize that everything in this incredible Universe works in perfect harmony with each other. In order to feel good enough, I’ve had to set aside the false beliefs that tell me I’m not – which also means setting aside thoughts of scarcity. A life of self-acceptance has no place for anything less than enough.
Accepting the premise that there is enough in the world, and that life is abundant, is a hard pill to swallow sometimes, though. There are many scenarios in which I find myself unconsciously conceding that there isn’t enough in the world. I’ve heard myself saying, “We don’t have enough money for that,” or “There aren’t enough hours in the day!” I’ve also found myself looking at starving children in Ethiopia and thinking, We don’t have enough food. I’ve bought into many of the clichés of my generation. I’ve rolled my eyes when flight attendants have told me to give myself oxygen before assisting others. Yeah right! Like I’m going to give myself oxygen while I watch my toddler suffocate! What kind of mother do they think I am?
Let’s take another very common situation for example. Picture a delicious, mouth-watering pizza oozing with melted mozzarella and covered with fresh heirloom tomatoes sitting atop a perfectly crispy crust. Let’s imagine there are three hungry children and two famished parents getting ready to dig into this 8-pieced wonder. The kids each grab a slice, enthusiastically enjoying every mouthful, and then they reach for seconds. Dad is busy enjoying his slice while Mom is demurely handing out napkins. She reaches for a slice of pizza and discovers that only one is left. She could eat it. There is a slice for her. But her husband is bigger than the kids, and he’s undoubtedly starving.
“Go ahead. You take the last piece,” she says. “I’ll just have some salad.”
How many times have you heard a mother say something like that? “Oh, you enjoy it! I don’t want you to be hungry. I’m fine! Don’t worry about me. I’m not that hungry anyway. Please, take the last one!” She’s really saying, “There’s not enough. In order for you, my precious child/husband, to have enough food to fill your belly, someone is going to have to go without. I love you so much that I’m willing to be that one.”
What kind of message does that send?
I’ve done this so many times I really can’t count. We swing by the bank on a Saturday morning and only three donuts are left, so my family members each get one and I scarf up the unfrosted crumbs. Or, we stop for snacks during a family hike and everyone guzzles water while I use my own water bottle to refill everyone’s canteens, leaving the rest in my backback in case someone (not me, obviously) needs water later.
I used to think these sort of actions were good. That I was setting a good example. Oh, look, kids, don’t you see how much I love you? I’m happy to go without food and water as long as YOU are comfortable. This is what love is, sweetie pies! Love is giving the shirt off your back – and oh, your mommy loves you!
Is that what love is?
Does true love require one to give something up so someone else can have what they need?
I’ve been wondering lately about what kind of message I’m sending my sons when I always sacrifice something myself so that they can be happy, in the name of caring/nurturing/providing. Am I raising entitled little brats? Am I telling them that their needs are more important than mine, and in doing so, teaching them that their needs are more important than the needs of others?
Is that what I want to teach them? That love requires someone to do without something? That when they fall in love, they’ll either have to take something from someone (so that person proves their love to them) or that they’ll have to sacrifice something (to prove their love for another)? And what exactly am I saying to my husband – that he has to take advantage of me in order to be loved? Some kind of feminist I am! He must feel like a jerk sometimes, seeing me go without. Am I insinuating that he’s a bad dad, and that he should give up his slice of pizza to be a good & loving parent, like me?
What does self-sacrifice say about abundance in the world? Self-sacrifice communicates the idea that we most certainly do not live in an abundant universe and that there isn’t enough to go around – because if there was enough, no one would have to sacrifice.
I’ve been trying to be generous and loving and kind, but I think what I’ve actually been doing is teaching my children to be competitive, entitled, and scared that there truly isn’t enough in the world, and that their needs can never really be fulfilled unless they take something from someone else. I think what I’ve been doing is teaching my kids that the world is scary and barren. Worst of all, I think the message I’ve been sending them is that life, and love, requires sacrifice.
If I truly believe that there is enough, and that love grows and multiplies when you give it away, then I have to stop with this self-sacrificing nonsense! It’s pointless, at best, and destructive, at worst. There is enough pizza! We can cut donuts in half! I don’t have to save my water when everyone else’s water bottles are full!
I’ve fallen into the trap of believing and acting as if self-sacrifice means love, but it’s becoming clear to me that self-sacrifice and martyrdom send very destructive messages out into the world. If I truly want to communicate the beauty and abundance of love, I need to start allowing myself to have a piece of the pie. I need to trust that there is a piece for me. I need to do what motivational speaker Lisa Nichols recommends, and let people sip from my SAUCER, not my tea cup – because my tea cup should always be overflowing, and the tea in the CUP is for ME.
There is enough time, money, energy, and love. I want the tiny humans that I’m raising to know that. I want the man I love to know that. I want my actions to match my beliefs. And that means I’m going to eat my share of pizza.