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I know a super volunteer for many organizations who works really hard at being generous and helpful. If anyone has a need, she goes out of her way to try to fill it. The people in her life greatly appreciate her.
But ironically she has expressed to me that she feels completely isolated and unappreciated. At times she can fall into a depression, feeling that she gives so much but gets nothing in return.
I told her I think I know why she’s so stuck. It is difficult for her to receive any kind of appreciation or praise. She’s a master at deflection.
When someone says, “Thank you – you are wonderful,” she says, “Oh, it was nothing.” She can’t take compliments in any form, so she is starving for it now.
She thinks she isn’t being appreciated, but she just can’t receive what’s right in front of her. She gives but can’t receive.
Often we think it’s polite to minimize our efforts or gifts so that the other person won’t feel envious or obliged to us.
The person on the other side of the exchange, however, feels differently because he or she is trying to offer something you refuse to receive. Such politeness has insidious effects.
Giving and receiving are like an electrical current – two sides of a miraculous exchange of energy and both need to occur for the circuit to be complete.
In my friend’s case, the connection is never made and we remain isolated regardless of which end we’re on. Either way, it feels lonely.
If you feel like you are always giving without getting anything in return, try this.
Buy a blank book and for a month, write down every compliment or thanks someone offers you for something that you’ve done.
At the end of the month, go back and read all the appreciation you’ve received.
When my friend tried this, she was amazed to discover how much she tended to ignore the appreciation she was being offered.
When we hold a piece of crystal to the light, it paints rainbows on the wall.
When we tap it lightly with a spoon, it sings like a bell. But when we drop it, it shatters in colorless, silent pieces on the floor.
Human beings, including ourselves, sometimes to our amazement, can be as fragile as glass.
Especially with people we live with or have known for a long time, it’s easy to forget what makes them shine.
We take for granted the very qualities that made us love them in the first place.
When we forget how to see and hear the people we love, how to appreciate them, how to appreciate even ourselves, we grow careless. Too often, from sheer neglect, the relationship between us grows dull and silent, then slips, falls and shatters.
Paying attention to other people’s needs and feelings can prevent this.
Some of those around us seem to see only the good in us. They trust and respect us, even when we ourselves may not feel we deserve it.
A young girl once talked about her grandfather. She said, “He was the only person in my life who saw the good in me.”
She mentioned that she sought to please her grandfather and not disappoint the trust which he placed in her.
He brought out the best in her because of the way that he looked at her.
Each of us can be like this grandfather by focusing on the good in other people and in ourselves.
We can use our spiritual eyes to see love, honesty, trustworthiness and unselfishness in the heart of ourselves and others.
As we look for the good, we are doing our part to help create it.
Bob Mueller is the assistant vice president of mission & stewardship at Hosparus. For information, visit www.bobmueller.org. The views in this column are those of the writer.