Monday, February 21, 2011

Learning To Give Yourself Freely

I’m thinking today about giving ourselves away and what can help us to do that and what can hinder us.

Recently I have been feeling the desire to give of myself more genuinely and more freely. What do I mean? I mean being fully present when I am talking with or relating to my friends, indeed anyone I meet. I have been fortunate enough to have good friends throughout my life, and if you were to ask many of them, they’d probably say that I’m a good guy and a good friend. But I must confess that often I have not been present. You see, I couldn’t truly be fully present with and for them. I would try to listen to what they were saying but often my mind would be a thousand miles away. Why is this? Why couldn’t I give myself freely?

The answer is because secretly I was crying out, yelling out inside for them to “fix me” or “help me.” You can have all the best intentions in the world of being present and truly listening to someone that you care about, but if you are a wounded child inside who is crying out for them to fix or help you, it’s impossible to do.

Here’s my point, or at least one of them:

You can not give yourself away freely if you don’t already own yourself or aren’t comfortable with who you are.

This is something that has thwarted friendships and relationships of mine in the past and has left me feeling worse than before, not to mention the hurt others have experienced.

As hard as it is, no person and no thing can make you complete, make you whole. Hollywood and pop music would tell you otherwise, that once you meet “the one” all your problems are over and you’ll live happily ever after. I must admit I’m a sucker for these movies, but really, they’re unrealistic.

So how do we own ourselves, how do we give ourselves away freely? How can we become an even better friend or partner and be truly present when we’re around those we love?

I believe the answer is that we must stop expecting so-and-so to heal our pain and we must release it to God. Now hold on, hold on. Perhaps you’re rolling your eyes now and saying to yourself “Here we go, he’s gonna go on about God when really I don’t believe in Him.” Well, ok my friend, tell me about the God that you don’t believe in. Is it the Man-In-The-Sky God who judges people to be good or bad and sends some people to Heaven and some to Hell? Guess what…I don’t believe in that God either; I haven’t for years. The God that I am talking about is a spiritual presence that lives both within you and I and in everything around us. This is not a judgmental, harsh God. This is a loving, quiet presence that lives within us.

What I am suggesting is that you and I need to release whatever pain and hurt that we have been carrying around for far too long. As long as we expect our friends or lovers to take our pain away, our friendships and relationships will be needs-based and frustrating, and probably eventually ending. And it’s not their fault! It’s not their job to fix us! The only thing that can truly help us, I believe, is if we connect to the God presence within each of us and consciously release our pain and hurt to Him/Her. I’m not saying this is easy to do, it’s not sometimes. That’s why therapists are there to help, it’s their job. It’s not easy, but when we do this, when we “let go and let God,” we can learn to walk freely and openly and truly show up in our friendships and relationships. Without the burden of our pain and hurt, we can truly listen to what other people are saying and be a good friend to them.

I encourage you to, in the words of author Henri Nouwen, learn to “cry inward” instead of outward. Nouwen suggests that we need to both cry out to God, and find a community that can truly hold us. I’ll leave you with this piece of writing of Nouwen’s that I find very powerful. Blessings.

"Cry Inward" by Henri Nouwen

“A split between divinity and humanity has taken place in you. With your divinely endowed centre you know God’s will, God’s way, God’s love. But your humanity is cut off from that. Your many human needs for affection, attention and consolation are living apart from your divine scared space. Your call is to let these two parts of yourself come together again.

You have to move from gradually crying outward – crying out for people who you can think can fulfil your needs – to crying inward, to the place where you can let yourself be held and carried by God, who has become incarnate in the humanity of those who love you in community.

No one person can fulfil all your needs. But the community can truly hold you. The community can let you experience the fact that beyond your anguish, there are human hands that hold you and show you God’s faithful love.”