Getting enough love? Or giving enough?

I used to wonder if I got enough love. There’s a line in the movie, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, where the main character asks her dad if he got loved enough.

I asked myself that question over the years. The answers varied, depending on what my life looked like at the moment.

But now…

Now I wonder if I’ve given enough.

Progress?

I hope so.

If the natural progression of life is to become less self-absorbed, and more other-focused, I hope I’m moving in the the right direction.

I don’t get it right all the time. I have my moments, my days, when I’m short-sighted, tunnel-visioned, when I lose sight of who I really want to be, how I want to be.

I’ll never live up to my aspirations. Does anyone do that? Aren’t we all victims of our imperfections, our flaws?

Our imperfections keep us from loving perfectly. From living selflessly. From forgiving totally.

But it’s still important to try. In the end, I think that’s what life is really about.

I think that’s really all life is about: how we love.

See, this is what I finally learned: Giving is actually a win/win. When I give, somehow…and this is the part I can’t explain…I get. I’m not talking about manipulative giving. I’m talking about extending all the good things of life…love, understanding, tolerance, forgiveness…when I have opportunity. Inevitably, I find myself on the receiving end, sooner or later, one way or another.

It’s remarkable really.

I think this is something that happens as we get older. Maybe, if we’re fortunate, we get enough love along the way, from whatever the source, to begin to give back without hesitation. Without reservation. To begin to see that we have capacity to give beyond what’s expected.

And maybe, in some areas of life, we’ll never get what we crave…maybe it’s the love and approval of parents that we missed out on. Or maybe the relationship we want with a spouse just hasn’t happened. Or maybe the relationship with children isn’t all we hoped it would be.

Where there’s life, there’s hope, and if there are people in your life you want a better or different relationship with, you may still be able to achieve that.

But even while you look for ways to improve the relationships you have, you have opportunity to give every day. You don’t have to make a big thing of it. But the possibilities are limitless.

Every person you meet needs something, and you have something to offer. It may be as small as a kind greeting, a genuine smile, or a helpful gesture. Or you may be able to offer something that’s truly life-changing in some way. The point isn’t the size of your gift, as much as your awareness that there are gifts to be given, and gifts needed.

When you look for ways to give love, without considering the return, an amazing thing happens.

You see people differently. You begin to ask yourself what others need, rather than trying to fill your needs.

Like so many inexplicable things in life, giving to others somehow becomes a self-feeding process. But it doesn’t work when you make self-feeding the object. It only works when the focus is on others.

I can’t explain it. But I know it’s true.

Service…real, unselfish, non-manipulative service…is healing and restorative. To the receiver first, then to the giver.

Here’s another thing I’ve learned: when I let go of the sense of ownership of my gift, that makes the it even better.

My task is to give love, to look for ways to fill the needs around me. My task is not to pass judgment on how my gifts are used, or received.

Sometimes gifts are squandered, or lost. That’s not good, but it doesn’t diminish the gift. The gift is enough, in itself. It’s up to the other person to choose how to receive it. I can’t control that.

My task then, is to give. No strings attached. I don’t need an accounting of anything I offer…is it well received and wisely used? I hope so. I always hope good comes of what I’m able to share.

But if not, so be it.

It took me a while to get here. This is easier said than done. But I am doing it. I’ve learned to let go of my expectations, to see that we all grow at individual paces.

Where are you on this timeline? Do you ask yourself if you got enough love? Do you ask if you’ve given enough?

“The more one forgets himself—by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love—the more human he is and the more he actualizes himself. Self-actualization is possible only as a side-effect of self-transcendence.” – Viktor Frankl

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