Wednesday, August 31, 2005

75. on generosity...

So I'm learning (far too slowly, but learning) that I need to be more selective in how I use my talents and resources. Here's the thing:

1. I have skills and tools that can be of use to people.
2. I'm very generous with these skills and tools.
3. I like to help people.
4. I don't expect much, if anything, in return.
5. But I have my limits.
6. I need to respect my limits.

That last item, "I need to respect my limits," is something new for me. See, the list used to end at number 5. I used to just work and work and work until I hit these limits and then I'd be screwed because I'd have no energy and no time but would have all these jobs on my plate that I'd still have to finish.

No more. For the sake of my own sanity and happiness, I’m going to have to be more selective in who and how I help.

For most people, this is a no-brainer. I guess I'm not wired like most people (you only figured that out now, Randall?). See, I don't like to turn people down when they ask for my help. I've gone very far out of my way to help people, sometimes at significant inconvenience on my part. This is something I do.

I know this might sound like science fiction to some, but when someone asks me for help, it pains me to turn them down. It's almost a literal physical pain to say no to helping out when I have the ability or the resources needed. But I need to learn to be more careful as to how I distribute my generosity.

This might read like something as obvious as basic arithmetic but this is nothing less than a huge paradigm shift for me. How did I end up with such a self-sacrificing personality? To put it bluntly, I blame the shitty theology I was taught in my formative high school/early college years.

Back in high school (Hawaii Baptist Academy, Christian school), I was taught this nifty acronym: JOY. It meant that joy comes when you put Jesus first, Others second, and Yourself last. I swallowed this stinker hook, line, sinker, pole, and fisherman. And I put it into practice at every opportunity. I mean, here was a formula for bringing joy into your life and who doesn't want joy? But it didn't bring joy, it brought pain and frustration and confusion.

Now it would be one thing if I was a fast learner but I can be a stubborn bastard. When a little bit of putting myself last didn't work, I tried harder - pushed my needs/wants/desires down further and tried to help more people. In addition to the JOY acronym, I guess I was also trying to test the adage, "it's better to give than to receive." But none of it was working. I didn't find joy and I didn't see how giving was any better than receiving.

Maybe I am just a generous person and this thinking just corrupted this part of me. Or maybe I tried so hard to make the JOY formula work that it became a part of who I am. (Sounds like the nature versus nurture debate.) Regardless, I need to start being more selective as to how and whom I help. But this is something new for me and I'm not sure how to choose.

But I know one thing. I need to be appreciated (or at least feel appreciated). I don't mind working for free, I don't mind going out of my way to help. But I'm not a fucking hammer or wrench. You can't call me for help and then just walk away once I’m done. I don’t need much but I do need to know that I’m appreciated as something more than an anonymous repairman.

So what do you want, Randall? Well WTF, I always bust my ass to go above and beyond your expectations. The least you can do is come up with some way to show your appreciation on your own. I don’t need much, I just need to know that I’m not someone you call on to fill a need – someone you drop like expired milk once your need is met. Here’s a hint. If I call to ask you how you’re doing, how about calling me back?


There are a few people I’m helping out right now. I was going to include disclaimers as to whom this blog did and did not apply to, but I say screw that. Thing is, this blog doesn’t apply to very many people. In fact, it primarily applies to one person. But I’m not going to say who. Why should I? If you treat me like a person and not just some anonymous corporation that works for free then you have nothing to worry about. I’m cool with you. If do treat me like a corporation, well you’re probably not reading this blog so…so what am I writing for? Just to vent, I guess.

Again, if you think this applies to you, it probably doesn’t. But if you want to be on the safe side and take me out for a scoop of ice cream, well that’s fine with me.

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