“I knew a homeless guy who’d give all the copper coins that people gave him to charity. So I think there’s something that makes us want to give. For me, it’s quite a selfish luxury: you feel enlivened, deepened and self-nurtured by generosity.” Tamsin Greig, actress
“I don’t want people’s sympathy…and, I certainly don’t want their money, either!”
Whitney had a lot of what others called, ‘bad luck.’ Several years earlier, she had survived a serious fall which resulted in a broken left leg. Then, she had waltzed through an auto collision which totalled two cars and almost totalled her. It involved a three year recovery period and a prosthetic, right leg. You would only notice it if you watched her walk carefully, which many guys probably did because she was a tall, striking person.
Whitney was a red headed, robust woman with a quick wit and friendly smile. She was thirty eight years of age and married to Walter. They had one child, William, aged fifteen and just starting high school. Whitney’s favourite saying, when asked about her conflicts with the laws of gravity and motion was, ‘It is what it is!’ She seemed to neither resent or infatuate her past. But, her newest challenge, which has motivated her call, was ‘The Big C’…cancer!
With her healthy attitude toward her previous challenges, I asked Whitney what was troubling her this time that didn’t fit inside her ‘It is what it is!’ philosophy? She said there were two things which were leaving her feeling unsettled.
When I asked her to explain them to me she replied with confusion and a simultaneous hint of anger,
“The first is…why me? Why did I get cancer, now? And, the second is…I have all these people: family, friends, even strangers, wanting to help me. I just heard last week, there is even going to be a community fundraiser for me! I don’t want my situation to be public! I don’t want people’s sympathy…and, I certainly don’t want their money, either!”
“So, your body is striving to rebalance itself.”
“Well, let’s deal with each one individually. First, why cancer and you? Do you want the short novelette version or the full length book?” I asked her with a smile to see if I could catch some of her enthusiasm.
Her friendly wit surfaced immediately when she returned my smile and said, “I don’t plan to read War And Peace ever, I don’t care how good it is, so I’d prefer the shortest version you got, Ken!”
“OK! Nature doesn’t make mistakes. For example, while they may scare us, we have hurricanes, typhoons, and blizzards because our weather system needs to be constantly rebalanced. The same principle applies to us, because we are also a natural system. So, your body is striving to rebalance itself. With me so far?” I asked.
“Yes, I think so! So, my body is off balance in some way and it is trying to self correct…is that the idea?” Whitney asked.
“Whitney, that’s it exactly! You have a physiological part (body) and a psychological part (mind). They work together to ensure your health. Our medical system will strive with various treatment techniques to assist the physiological part (body) in this process. The most important thing you can do is make sure your psychological part (mind) is in collusion and cooperating, with your physiological part (body).”
“How do I do that?”
“Great indebtedness does not make men grateful, but vengeful.” – Friedrich Nietzsche, philosopher
“I’m ashamed of my self righteous attitude which I have shoved down the throats of my birth family…”
“I can help you with that part. Let’s start with an interesting definition of cancer I heard from Dr. John F. Demartini, a world renowned human behaviour specialist. He said, “Cancer is nature’s last ditch effort to get someone to learn to appreciate their life!’ Where does that statement take your mind Whitney?” I asked.
“I’m not sure!” she replied looking over my head to the blank wall behind my chair.
“Whitney, let me ask you another similar question and see if it clarifies things more for you.”
“Whitney, which person from your past do you feel disconnected from, and need to open your heart to, so you can be OK with yourself?” I said gently.
She sat back in her chair, raised her eyes high above my face, and went deep into herself. She held that pose for a full minute and while she did, her eyes became glassy, and then her tear ducts started seeping down her sad face.
“I have had no contact with my father for many years. I don’t even know where he is, or even if he is alive! I’m ashamed of my self righteous attitude which I have shoved down the throats of my birth family for all these years in regard to Dad.” she said, tears flowing freely now.
“Tell me about your father, Whitney.”
“… I pushed away my father and now am pushing away my son, too!”
As she wiped her eyes and nostrils, she said, “When my parents split up, I took my Mom’s side and exiled him from my life and my own child, William…his only grandchild!“
She paused to regain her composure then continued, “And, lately William has been asking questions I don’t know how to answer and so I avoid them. This is effecting our close relationship. So, I pushed away my father and now I am pushing away my son, too!”
I said, “Since you are alive and well today, some would say you had the perfect father to get you to be who you are today. What if that were true? Would you be interested in broadening your past perceptions of your father so you can create healthier relationships with both him and your son?”
Still dabbing her face, Whitney looked at me and replied, “Is that possible, Ken?”
“You don’t know where your father is but you do know where your son is. Let’s focus on what you can control and see where that leads. What I do know is if you update your perceptions of your father, it will enable you to deal with both in a way that will serve you. Are you interested in doing that work, Whitney?” I asked her.
“… there must always be a fair exchange in natural systems at all times.”
‘Yes, I am! I need to do that work right away! But, what about all this charity I’m receiving with my cancer. I’m so embarrassed and I don’t know how to handle it at all!” she asked.
“That may be because you think they are doing it for you!” I said.
Her eyes popped wide open, like she had just been clipped in the back of her head.
“Say that again, Ken! I think I misheard you!”
“I said, you may have been thinking when people give to others, they are ignoring themselves! This is not true or even possible in nature.”
“Are you saying there is no charity in nature?” she asked with a look of incredulity.
“Whitney, there is no charity in nature for two reasons. First, there must always be a fair exchange in natural systems at all times. It is one of nature’s most fundamental laws. When the predator (lion) kills and eats the prey (impala), the lion is not angry or the impala, sad. It is a fair exchange of resources so each species survives into its future.”
“So, you mean there is a natural balance in nature of give and take…is that it?” she asked.
“Yes, it happens at all times and places. It is stated commonly as the law of energy conservation which says matter and energy are constant and can only be transformed from one form to another.”
“That’s why charity work is very selfish at the same time, because it makes you feel good. – Maria Menounos, actress
“… the giver is not noticing what they receive in the energy exchange…”
“And the second reason there is no charity in nature?” she asked.
“Second, charity implies giving more than you get. This ignores the energy conservation law. What’s happening is the giver is not noticing what they receive in the energy exchange, so they have the illusion of giving more than their getting.” I said.
“Are you saying human givers and receivers are in a similar balanced exchange of matter or energy, Ken?”
“Yes, I am, Whitney! Many people don’t notice the fair exchange going on…but it’s always present! That is why we usually think the bigger the gift we give the more appreciation we are entitled to from the receiver.”
“Would you give me another example…a human example this time!” she asked.
“Certainly! Let’s take public charity and pick on Bill Gates’ charity work. The Gates Foundation contributes billions to various charities around the globe. Their work impacts many, many people. But, what do they receive in return?” I asked.
“Well, I guess they get the appreciation of many everyday people, they get the approval of world leaders, they build their brand globally. they probably get some tax advantages and they get the love of their family!” she responded wisely.
“It is one of the ways he grows his sense of himself, his purpose and his values.”
“I think you are quite correct. And, what do all those experiences impact that is even more important to Bill Gates?”
“I would guess his view of himself!” Whitney replied.
“Bingo! Mr. Gates gets to raise his level of self esteem and self confidence! These are the two most important perceptions we have for our future survival!”
“Does that not demean his intention?” she asked confused.
“It reflects his true natural intention, which we all share, which is to survive and evolve ourselves and so our species too! By his philanthropic work, Mr. Gates honours himself, his fellow human beings and our evolutionary need to grow and survive!”
“It is not to disrespect Mr. Gates efforts to advance our species. It is also to understand what motivates him to do so. It is one of the ways he grows his sense of himself, his purpose and his values. Do you think it is any different for the people who want to host a community fundraiser for you?” I asked.
“Do you mean my family, friends and neighbours are having this fundraiser as much for themselves as for me?” she asked, following the logic of our discussion.
“What about Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and Stephen Lewis…”
“Not quite! I’m saying they are doing if first for themselves, so they can honour their values which enables them to raise their self esteem and self confidence, just like Mr. Gates. It is just a different form of the same tool all humans use to learn and survive.” I replied, waiting to see if she really understood the implications.
She stared off, contemplating these ideas for a moment, then she rebounded with, “What about Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and Stephen Lewis…people who seem to give so much to others?”
“Read their writings carefully and you will see how they perceived that they received just as much as they gave. Remember, just like the rest of us, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela and Stephen Lewis were motivated first by their own purpose and values. They had to take the road they did first to be able to live with themselves…to be able to look in the mirror and be true to themselves. Everything followed from that premise.”
“But, what if I don’t want their charity, Ken? How does it help me to be put in this situation?” she asked, her frustration resurfacing.
“Well, it serves you somehow because that’s nature’s law…there are no mistakes! Can I offer you a guess, Whitney, from what you’ve told me?”
“I’d appreciate one about now?” she replied.
“Being charitable provides a boost to your psyche that is tough to replicate in any other way.”
– Jean Chatzky, journalist
“Everyone is dependent on others at times!”
“Would it be fair to say you place high value on being a private person, and also being independent?”
“Ken, they are hugely important to me and have been for as long as I can remember!”
“Is it fair to say you don’t have much appreciation for being dependent or publicly scrutinized?” I asked next.
“Yes and Yes! Where are you going with this, Ken?”
“Our journey in life is to learn to love all of ourselves…every behaviour, regardless of how it is perceived by others. It sounds like you don’t appreciate your dependency behaviours or your public scrutiny behaviours. Yet, these are behaviours you use every day!”
“I don’t get it! How do I use these behaviours every day?” she asked skeptically.
“You have been displaying dependent behaviours in your family relationships, your health recovery needs, your job…and that’s just for openers! And, you are publicly scrutinized every moment you’re with a family member, a colleague, walking in public, and so on.”
“Are you suggesting this fundraiser is just another example of me showing a dependency on others and being judged by others?” she asked, starting to get the idea.
“Exactly, Whitney! Everyone is dependent on others at times! It’s not really good or bad, simply a behaviour we use sometimes to learn and survive.”
“What if we all can and we all do, Whitney?”
“But, what am I supposed to learn, Ken?”
“Only you can figure that out! But I bet you will!” I replied smiling.
That’s where Whitney started. She made the time to update her perception of her father and his role in her life. She realized she still loved him and he had demonstrated his love for her by not badgering her after his split with her mother. Then, she did some work on the two sides (good and bad) of dependency and scrutiny. Then, after she attended the fundraiser, at our next session, she wanted to talk about ‘grace.’
I asked, “What about grace?”
Whitney replied, “At the fundraiser, as I watched people wish me well, I could see clearly how good they felt about themselves and each other to be able to participate in it. It all came clear to me when the four year old daughter of my neighbour came up to me. She took my big hand in her little one and said with a soft smile, “I know you’re gonna get better real soon!” When I replied, “Thank you, Melissa!”, she literally danced away with this huge grin on her face. It was then I realized my job was simply to shut up and say thank you, gracefully…with real appreciation!”
Then she added thoughtfully, “If someone can learn to do that with every life experience, then they would probably have a perfect life, wouldn’t they, Ken?”
“What if we all can and we all do, Whitney?”
“Can we explore that a bit, Ken?”
“I’d love to!” I replied.
“Charity is nature’s tool to ensure both giver and receiver are equally compensated simultaneously!” – King Ayles, author
Until Next time…
Now you know, since there’s no charity in nature, you have been getting as much as you gave. Why is that important for you to notice at this point in your relationships? Write down the three most important learnings which you can take into the rest of your life.
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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