Reflections on Giving without Expectations

The evergreen philosophy regarding generosity advises us that we should give without expecting anything in return and yet you still get a bit shocked, angry and disappointed when those you feel you have given your time, care and effort to refuse to do anything for you that would in any way cause them some effort, hardship or discomfort.

There are a few possible approaches – the first is the best but requires the selflessness of a saint. Try to genuinely not care if those you have done your best for do their minimum for you because you know that if your heart is pure when you give, that in itself is the reward. As they say, ‘What you give, is yours forever. What you keep is lost for all time!’ (Straight from the lovely film, Monsieur Ibrahim with Omar Sharif). So proceed with your efforts and time for others, despite the non-reciprocal nature of such transactions. For me, it takes effort to achieve this level of love.

The second option, and the one which requires the least work, is to not give much of yourself at all. Find excuses when asked for favours or companionship by those who are more comfortable in taking rather than giving. Keep a distance from those who have revealed themselves to be highly self-absorbed and less generous and sacrificial than you expected. It should save you a lot of time and protects you from future disappointment. But is this really how we will live our lives? Cancelling everyone who doesn’t quite meet our parameters of what is an acceptable level of giving?

There are some deficiencies in this calculation, and in order to embrace it, we need to step away from arithmetic equations. In friendships, spousal and familial relationships, not everyone loves and gives in the same manner. To be hung up with an acceptable level of giving is to assume that everyone speaks the same language of love and that your own language is somehow better than others. Before shrugging off loved ones in your life owing to some sense of deprivation of reciprocity, remember to measure them in totality, never in isolation and value them in their own unique standing, not a replication of yours.

If after this appraisal, the notion of injustice continues to persist, ask yourself genuinely what are you willing to give sincerely without expecting anything in return, and if that takes you to a place between very much and nothing at all, then that’s where you should stay.

To step-up for others, without any expectation, is alive in all of us and waiting to be harnessed. May we strive to get to that liberating place of doing for the sake of a higher purpose and not our own egos. As they say, with no expectations, there can be no disappointments…

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