I am ( sort of) fresh off of a 4 day intensive with two of the most brilliant practitioners in the field of relationships and intimacy that I know, John Wineland and Kendra Cunov.
Though my body arrived home about a week ago, my heart continues to integrate and embody their teachings on a deep, cellular level. The offerings were so rich I’m sure this will take me several weeks, if not longer.
One of the underpinnings of their workshop was the idea of generosity in relationships. I know, you may consider yourself a generous person, I thought I was also. And we probably are to some extent. But I had this notion of what it means to relate to others with generosity all wrong, and my guess is that you do too.
We live in a culture that ( mostly) supports the Janet Jackson “What Have You Done For Me Lately” approach to relating. It’s more about what the other person can bring to you, how they can show up in a way that meets your needs, or give you what you want. Often, those of us with a foundation of over giving and over functioning need to be a bit selfish for a while to understand that our needs matter too. So it’s not that that’s bad or wrong.
It’s just that there is so much more available to create deeper, vaster experiences of connection and intimacy when you practice true generosity. And I want to acknowledge that this is not possible without first having a healthy sense of self and entitlement.
So does being generous mean that you have to be nice all the time and give everything you have, even when you don’t have it to give because you are so depleted from all the “generous” giving you’ve been doing?
No. It’s quite the opposite in fact.
From what I gathered, being generous means feeling into the person or situation, seeing what would open their heart more, and doing that, EVEN IF IT’S NOT WHAT YOU PREFER.
Sometimes that does mean being nice. Other times, it may mean bringing fierceness or tenderness or heartbreak or rage. It’s gifting the other person with the truest expression of your heart in that moment, even if it’s not comfortable or convenient or preferable. I’ll give you an example from my own life.
I’m in a Facebook group for an on line course I am taking. One of the members has made it clear that he HATES Facebook and has no use for it. The thought of logging in and checking the page fills him with disgust. The other day, I posted something that felt alive and tender for me. When I checked back later, I saw that he had commented on my post. This man, who would rather shove bamboo shoots under his fingernails than participate in this form of social media, had gone to the group page, read my post and replied to me. His response to me was so loving and beautiful that it softened my heart even further.
To me, this is generosity in action. He did the thing he would have ( strongly) preferred to avoid in the name of serving a moment bigger than himself. It opened me and I am guessing him too.
See? We have an epidemic of loneliness in this country when we each have it in us to create space for truer connection if only we would devote ourselves to something bigger than what we ( think we) want.
Let me be clear: I’m not suggesting that you stay in relationships where you do not get anything back in return at all. Thats not generosity; that’s martyrdom.
What I am saying is that if you practice ( true) generosity, you may be surprised at how much was waiting there for you in the relationship after all. You may be delighted at how the other person lights up simply because you really saw them for who they are, not who you want them to be.
As Kendra says, “Generosity means loving others in the way they want to loved, even if it’s totally different from the way we want to be loved”
So maybe you play with your child in the way they want to play, or you go see that movie you know you will hate because your spouse will feel loved by your effort to extend past your own preferences.
What do you have to lose? Janet Jackson will always be waiting for you if it doesn’t work!