Thursday, September 13, 2012

Learning to say 'No'

In my last entry I wrote about generosity and how we can practice it in little ways day to day. The more we practice generosity the easier it will become, although we may notice at the beginning just how ungenerous we can be.

That's O.K. This is an opportunity for you to practice compassion for yourself. Acknowledge that you are ungenerous sometimes but don't beat yourself up about it. That's like hitting a dog to teach it how to sit. The dog will become confused, scared and possibly will sit but not for the right reasons. The motivation to be generous will come from seeing how it benefits you and the world around you. 

But we must be careful not to give too much. Being generous doesn't just mean giving change to a busker or offering your seat to someone on the bus. Being generous can also mean giving your time or energy to another. We can do this in many ways but it's important not to be taken advantage of. 

I was reading a forum the other day and someone had asked what they could do to help a friend of theirs who was always stuck in a rut. They said they'd spent a lot of time talking to them. They'd offered multiple solutions. They'd even accompanied their friend on several occasions to carry out a plan they'd discussed. But their friend continued to be depressed, downtrodden and generally miserable about things.

There were many responses on the forum but I felt the ones which were the most helpful were the ones which told them to walk away. When we are being generous we are offering help to another, through our kindness, our time, our ability to listen. But we can only help someone as much as they are willing to help themselves and at a certain point we must learn to say, "No." 

It is not selfish or wrong to say "No" to someone or something that drains us. If we feel morally, physically and emotionally drained by a job or a person, we owe it to ourselves to walk away. We do this because we, as much as anyone else, deserve our own love and compassion. We cannot be expected to practice compassion for those around us if we don't practice it for ourselves. We cannot be generous to those around us if we do not understand how to be generous to ourselves. 

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