Are you giving away what you don’t have?

GiftsYesterday I cited the old adage, “The more you give, the more you get.”  While this is true, it requires a disclaimer: you can only give what you have.  In concrete terms, this means that if you are giving away heaps of money on a credit card, money that you don’t actually possess, then you will not end up receiving.  Instead, that which you borrowed will end up being taken from you one way or another.  Part of the accumulation of financial debt is simply giving what you do not have.

This principle also operates in relationships.  If you are always trying to help others, give them advice and a shoulder to cry on, but never ask for assistance yourself, you are giving away what you don’t have.  I love the way Brené Brown put it when talking to Oprah about giving and receiving help: if you give help freely, but consider yourself a person that doesn’t ask for help, then every time you are giving help to someone you are judging them.  You are saying, “It is okay for you to ask for help, but not me.  I’m not the kind of person that does that.”  To give genuinely, you must first possess.

This also comes up in love relationships.  I’ve heard many times that you must first love yourself before you love others.  But what does that actually mean?  To figure that out I look at the way I treat myself.  When I forgive myself for making mistakes, have compassion for my shortcomings, comfort myself in times of grief, and let myself laugh and be joyful every single day, I can see that I am truly loving myself.  It is a lot easier to refrain from criticizing your partner for gaining a couple pounds, than it is yourself.  That is where the practice of loving yourself comes in.  The more compassion you can exercise on yourself, the more genuinely your compassion will be experienced by others.

Yesterday at the grocery store my thoughts attempted to gain my attention by worrying about the price of my groceries.  Worry is a common pattern for the mind.  But going into the grocery store I knew I had enough money in my bank account to buy groceries.  I knew that I wasn’t borrowing money from the credit card company that I didn’t already have at my disposal.  Of course, that doesn’t matter to the mind, which attempts to use any situation to place itself firmly at the center of your attention, often through negative reactions. So I allowed myself to enjoy the exchange of giving and receiving.

The first step in giving is to check your bank account.  How much love do you have in your bank account?  How much gratitude?  How much forgiveness?  Your funds will only be depleted if you are giving what you don’t have.  Start with yourself.  Practice gratitude and self-forgiveness.  If it is physical money that is an issue for you in the exchange of energy, create some savings; pay yourself before you pay everyone else.  Whether physical or spiritual, you can only give what you already have.  And once you have, and start becoming part of the exchange, there is no end to the growth of giving and receiving you can experience.