She was a co-worker of mine. We were not best friends, but we chatted often about insignificant things to get through the work of the day. One day she came to me sobbing, explaining to me that her parents were about to lose their home and had to come up with a substantial amount of money to avoid it going into foreclosure. She asked me if I could loan her $1,000 dollars. I had it to spare and I thought, well, God gave it to me so perhaps He wants me to bless her with it. After all, it was only a short-term loan. Shortly thereafter, she went on to a new job and kept in touch for a few days. Now, almost three months later, I realize she never had any intention of ever paying me back. It really wasn’t about the $1,000 that my savings account was missing, but I had to ask myself some compelling questions. Did I meditate or pray about this decision? Was it just a gesture that relieved me of a sense of guilt for having a sizeable bank account while others seemed to be struggling? Did it feed a part of my ego that I was able to help someone in need?
So often we are totally committed to the happiness, success and comfort of others, that when it comes to considering our own needs and desires, we are AWOL.
We feel obligation, a sense of duty to others but often
not so much towards ourselves.
The term AWOL is borrowed from the military environment and means absent from one’s post or duty without official permission, i.e., absent without official leave. However, it is not the same as desertion, as there remains the intent to return to duty at some time in the future. Have you ever thought “I need a vacation -- haven’t had a real vacation in 5 years.” How about, “I need to write a book!” or “I should go back to school.” We all have a list of objectives and goals that we plan to accomplish someday and every year we add them to our New Year's resolutions. How is it that we feel a sense of duty to our parents, spouse, significant other, siblings, friends and even employers, but have abandoned our post and failed to pursue our own dreams? Perhaps if we thought of ourselves as our own best friend, we'd secure the time, motivation and resources to enable her/him to have a more fulfilling life.
We all grew up in different cultures and in families with their own set of values, and yet, we all have become ingrained with the ideals that it is better to give than to receive, that sharing is caring, and that selfishness is“bad.” In that, it seems we've failed to learn how to properly take care of ourselves. Like the instructions you hear when you board the airplane to place your oxygen mask on first before assisting others, we may need to remind ourselves that it is not selfish to devote some time and energy to our lives in a way that makes us feel more capable, places us in positions to offer more thoughtful assistance, or provides us with the knowledge or ability that someone else may need in the future.
A verse in the Bible (Proverbs 4:23) says:
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
While others may have permanent residence in our hearts, make sure there is room in your heart for you. Be on guard for those activities, persons, and attitudes that intentionally or unintentionally distract you from pursuing those things that bring you joy. A crowded heart that leaves no room for you, is a heart that minimizes its own desires. It places the comfort and needs of others higher than your own.
Who knows? If I had been properly motivated to give her the money, perhaps I would have just given it to her as a gift – no strings attached. Maybe I would have given her a smaller amount to make sure that I had what I needed for my obligations or those unexpected family emergencies. I've chalked it up to a lesson learned.
When I act on a whim or without fully considering the situation and/or the consequences, it is usually because I've failed to stop, look and listen to my internal compass. That is what meditation is to me. As I still my mind and my heart, my spirit can speak to me. It is so much wiser than my feelings. It can reveal a need that I thought had been met or show me negative thought patterns that make me feel “less than” when I'm in a situation striving to be “more than” to someone else. Meditation is not just listening to myself, but tapping into the power of The Spirit within and around me. On reflection, it reminded me that while it is admirable to be a caring, giving person, we also must be wise to guard and protect our own hearts so that we may give life to our own dreams and desires.
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