Back in October, I uploaded a post on how unhealthy the relationship between selfish and selfless people can be. I got so many emails in response from individuals who felt drained because they would empty themselves out in the name of living a life of generous giving! We were all in the same boat: we hadn’t been able to identify yet what we needed to continually fill ourselves right back up.
This is where the analogy of the fountain just might help:
“We must be like the fountain or spring that is continually emptying itself of all that it has and is continually being refilled from an invisible source. To be continually giving out for the good of our fellows undeterred by fear of poverty and reliant on the unfailing bounty of the Source of all wealth and all good–this is the secret of right living.”
My understanding of this quote is this: it is in the nature of a fountain to give water; if it stops giving water, it will become rusty and, as water accumulates in its pipes, will eventually crack open. But at the same time, a fountain can’t fulfill its purpose if it doesn’t find a source of water that fills it up at par with the amount of water it gives out.
Although it seems that this quote is about the giving of material wealth, it felt quite à propos in the context of general giving. What source can we tap into so that we can continually be refilled and keep giving out for the good of our fellows?
Setting the question in this context also addresses the guilt that many of use feel. After all, shouldn’t truly selfless people not care about what they get in return? Are we perhaps just as selfish as the people we accuse of draining us? This is a dangerous thought process we can fall into if we think about this question with the mindset of give and take, i.e. how much do I need to take to be able to keep on giving.
Reframing the Question
But what if we framed the question differently? What if we don’t make it about getting our “just dues” from others, but finding that “invisible source” which would probably be a sustainable, limitless source of energy we could tap into? It would be like a fountain choosing to tap into a stream rather than asking the people it gives water to, to walk to a source of water and bring back the same amount that he or she just received from us.
From where, then, can I seek “refueling” to live a life of generous giving?
Image courtesy of Chad Mauger.