Yesterday I challenged our members with the task of giving. To give a selfless act or gift or gesture of kindness towards another person. The purpose being to remind us all that the joy created from empathy and kindness towards others is so powerful. So much more than chasing selfish endeavours.
Whether that be watching your favourite tv show, devouring a block of chocolate or winning a game of Fortnite. These all feel great, temporarily. But they aren’t what we live for, they don’t provide us with long term joy and contentment. To do something for someone else, to give joy and gratitude to somebody not only serves them, it probably made their day!
It is an absolute treat to see joy on the faces of others because of something kind you have done for them. It is why when giving gifts at Christmas that take a lot of effort and care always make the day. When you do something selfless and kind for another, everyone is buzzing! And it doesn’t often take much to do something good. Just a little thought. It is something we can all do more of, especially during these current trying times.
Everyone buzzes, them and you. So, as much as a selfless act is… selfless. I can also be very self-serving. There is nothing wrong with that as long as the receivers interests are the priority, the one and only focus. While the interest in the self, non existent. To give to another but with the intent to receive acknowledgement, a reward, a thanks. This is not selfless giving. Just like when we take a photo of our amazing dinner and post it to Instagram. If we didn’t post it and it wasn’t acknowledged, did it even happen? Was it worth doing? When we do something kind and selfless and you don’t tell anybody, or you aren’t there on the receiving end when it is received to enjoy their joy, or no one acknowledges you or gives you credit and praise for your act, did it even happen? Was it worth doing?
“Work done for a reward is much lower than work done in the Yoga of wisdom. Set thy heart upon thy work, but never on its reward. Work not for the reward; but never cease to do thy work.” – The Bhagavad Gita
Of course it is! It was never about you. It was about them. Doing something to brighten their day. Doing something so truly selfless, so purely beyond oneself that no acknowledgement should be necessary. Just knowing in yourself that your act was good is all you truly need to feel joy and contentment. The act of good is enough.
This was the kicker I added to the challenge. Members were not allowed to tell anybody about their efforts. This is not as easy as you would think. Even me, upon completing my act, found myself lingering longer than I should have been, hoping to capture the slightest glimpse of my recipient’s joy. I caught myself in the act and forced myself to leave.
Why did I try and get a glimpse?
The same reason I set the rule. I may not have been after acknowledgement, but I couldn’t help but try and gain myself a tiny little ego stroke from seeing their surprised and joyous reaction. Just the doing should be enough. I didn’t need to see them to know its impact. It wasn’t for me. It was for them. To learn to operate at this level of selflessness is something our gratification seeking world should all work towards. Our world would benefit exponentially from behaviour that serves causes far bigger than ourselves. But it’ll take some practice!
We are not the centre of the universe, we are a blip.
“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.” – Greek Proverb