Saturday, March 12, 2011


Why is it that some people seem wired to give to others, and some seem selfish to their core? Is it simply a perspective thing, in that each person feels they are giving but I perceive that they are not? And if it is perception, I wonder what others perceive of me. I think we all want to be giving instead of selfish, but some personality types dig deep and give, even when it is hard to do so, and some do not.

I'm looking at this because it goes hand in hand with the newly-defined boundaries I have constructed for myself. I think most of us give because we get something from it (a feeling of helping, a sense of validation that we are a good person, or even a superiority complex) and not solely because we love unconditionally and are that selfless. We are all selfish in certain ways, and give because we hope to get something in return, or have a twisted up idea of ourselves which is reinforced when we act unselfishly toward others.

There is a silent giving, and a proclaimed-from-the-rooftop variety where we call attention to our good deeds so that people will tell us how wonderful we are. I've done both, and always feel initially better about the first one, but then in time become resentful that no one knows how great I really am, and end up subtly shifting to the second type. I hate that it's part of human nature to act like this, and with the advent of social media like Facebook and Twitter, it is easier than ever to blow our own horn in a global way, to make sure everyone knows how wonderful and giving we really are.

I don't mean to sound cynical here, because I'm as guilty as the next person. We all do this. I have no idea where the line is between promoting yourself with integrity and being a blowhard who irritates everyone. I think I can find this line with others, but do I have any level of ability to identify when I am personally over the line? We can all tell ourselves what we want to hear, or find family or friends to assure us that we are not selfish, but when I look into my own heart I often recoil from what I see there.

It is becoming harder and harder in this age of digital noise to give anonymously and generously without expecting kudos or regards. None of us wants to toil in obscurity when the chance to shine a light on our deeds is readily available. I find it hard to know what to model for my kids in this situation, because I am promoting my own writing on the internet, and trying to get my name out there so when I'm ready to publish my books I have a built-in audience of readers, but I don't want to annoy people, and assume that everyone loves me, because I know for a fact that many do not.

Maybe I need to look at my own motives once in a while, and try my best to be honest about what I see. Why am I doing what I am doing? Am I looking to advance my own interests and not giving anything back? In trying to answer this question, I recently began posting daily writing business tips under the hashtag #writingbiztips on Twitter in an effort to provide something to the writing world instead of always taking.

I want to utilize both sides of give and take, and find a workable balance in that. I would hate to be known as someone who always wanted people to part with their money when I came calling. I want to be in real relationship with people, and have that mean more than what I am trying to get from a person. And sometimes it's a good exercise to give in secret, and not announce it for praise and validation from others. Mixing it up from time to time and resisting the urge to trumpet our good deeds from our keyboard or phone is a good thing. I think I have a better chance of developing my character quietly than I do by drawing attention to it all of the time.

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