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Can you accept help?

Bowl of cherry tomatoes

I was taught that being a good person meant I was to help others, generously and freely. In fact, I learned that it was BETTER to offer help than to ask for it, and way better to offer it than to need it. I learned the “Rules of Generosity” and practiced them often. It’s probably why I entered adulthood as an educator and continue to specialize my life’s work in wellness. However, somewhere along the line, the lesson translated more toward martyrdom (with the occasional defensive hard-A$$) than generosity. Which is probably why I have a history of burn-out and fatigue. Sound familiar?

The “Rules” I learned sounded something like this:

  • To be generous meant, you can’t say “No” to a request.
  • Generosity was measured by how difficult the gift was to give, and
  • To accept help was to admit defeat/failure.

Let me tell you a story. When my children were young, and I was recovering from the bicycle accident that redefined my life, I was asked to babysit a neighbor child. I was surprised by the request, and even a bit flattered that someone would entrust their child to my care (enter ego!). PLUS, I didn’t know how to say, “No”. Rationally it made a lot of sense: I was already at home with my kids. I am CAPABLE of watching another child. We could really use the additional income since I wasn’t working at the time (due to brain trauma recovery).

It was a TOTAL disaster. I felt guilty that the visiting child got more of my attention than my own kids. I was put-out by the lack of planning from the parent. And I was unable to leave the house because I now had 4 children needing car seats and only 3 safe seats in my car. I was stuck!

This was before YOGA!

But there is another angle regarding the Rules of Generosity and Need. I learned a different story through the experience of my recovery from the bicycle accident. This new understanding resulted in psychological dissonance and societal disagreement. See, the whole reason I was at home was because I was recovering from the accident. The only reason I was “available” to babysit for my neighbor was that I couldn’t function at my fullest in the world. Which meant my family was in need: Financially my not working had taken its toll. My brain injury was emotionally defeating and just having three pre-school children was down-right physically exhausting. We had no choice but to accept help. That’s when I experienced the dark side of generosity. I was told, indirectly and directly:

  • To have a need is weakness: generosity means the recipient is to be pitied. Generosity is a fool’s errand:
  • Being generous is a risk to one’s own wellness (you’ll be taken advantage of).
  • To be the recipient of help (especially financial) equates to laziness. Ouch!

After a few months of internal dissonance and critical self-talk, I was able to get out of babysitting but I was still in need. I was unable to completely relieve my guilt and shame (I am a “recovering” Catholic, after all). I was embarrassed that I couldn’t do what I had agreed to do. I was ashamed that my financial need was the root of offering a service I didn’t want to give. I was confused: how I could be a generous person and not want to help someone else?

Is need a sign of weakness? Is generosity a sign of superiority? Does saying, “No” equate to selfishness? My answer to all of the above is, “Absolutely NO”! But to get there was a difficult path.

I had to relearn how to be generous and discover how to create and uphold boundaries.  After years of reflection, exploration, and practice, I have come to understand that IT IS AS HONORABLE to GIVE as it is to RECEIVE.

I’ll share more about how I re-framed my understanding of Generosity next week! Stay tuned!

Summer schedules can quickly get out of control and be overwhelming, despite our best intentions. Trying to fit summer fun in an already full life, can be a recipe for burn-out. Let us help! From yoga to massage, restorative treatments to energizing and educational workshops with a community of imperfect sojourners on this path of compassion, generosity and authenticity. Together, we are better and life is easier. Together we can remind each other to: Breath. Move. Rest.

Whether you have the energy and time to share a story, or need some extra tender loving care. Come just as you are! YOU ARE ENOUGH!

May you breathe deeply, move freely, labor lovingly and live vibrantly.