Profit and Loss

How often have you said or thought: "after all that I did for you!"? It is the cry of the betrayed: the investor who risked his money and whoever we did it for is not paying out the dividend we were counting: it has all been for nothing. We wasted our time and energy and love...


How often are we aware of our underlying motives for helping another?

Recently an acquaintance, let's call her Jane, went through a very traumatic experience: she had invested almost all her time and her very precarious physical health and energy in a project abroad over a period of years. She was, she thought, a lynchpin in the organisation. But there was a pirate who came and 'stole' Jane's role and so it ended in tears and heart-sore. Jane stood in the middle of the room and cried: "after all that I did for them!"

Ego in the Driving Seat
When we invest in a project and we invest all our time and energy and heart in this activity, we must ask ourselves constantly: WHY AM I DOING THIS? Is it because I need validation, approval? Do I hope that, by my deeds, I will win gratitude and love and attention?

I have a history of causes that I have started on and then had to abandon because the people and I did not see eye to eye. Usually, it would end in tears and, hindsight being buddha-sight: I could have known it would end that way because it wasn't me doing these wonderful things, it was my ego. Once you let your ego into the driving seat, that is when you are likely to crash into the brick wall of ingratitude.

(The other day on a Buddhist facebook site, someone asked if the Buddha would have been a good driver if he had lived now and someone else answered: 'yeah, absolutely, because he has been driving us sane for thousands of years!' I thought that was really cutesmiley).

When we decide to help or support or serve, we should learn to ask:

a)WHY do I want to help? Be very aware of the help asked, the help needed (not always the same thing) and your attachment to the issue

b)WHAT can I bring to this issue? What resources and or talents do I have that will be a positive element for those confronted by these problems.
c)WHO am I helping: myself or the other? The real recipient should be very clear or you will find yourself helping all kinds of people of issues that don't need your help at all.
There's an old management course that taught the fledgeling managers to ask this question 5X by changing the emphasis to each word in a sentence:
Must I do this now?


Try it:

MUST I do this now?

Must I do this now?

Must I DO this now?

Must I do THIS now?

Must I do this NOW?

It really works. In all areas of your life.Thich Nhat Hanh the Buddhist monk-philosopher says in his book "The Miracle of Mindfulness", that you must meditate on help, charity and support. He uses the term: Detached Action. He says:

Take a project you believe to be important as the subject of your contemplation. Examine the purpose of the work, the methods to be used, and the people involved. Consider first the purpose of the project. See that the work is to serve, to alleviate suffering, to respond to compassion, not to satisfy the desire for praise or recognition. See that the methods used encourages cooperation between humans. Don’t consider the project as an act of charity. Consider people involved. Do you still see in terms of ones who serve and ones who benefit? If you can still see who are the ones serving and who are the ones benefitting your work is for the sake of yourself and the workers, and not for the sake of service. The Prajnaparamita Sutra says, “The Bodhisattva helps row living beings to the other shore but in fact, no living beings are being helped to the other shore.” Determine to work in the spirit of detached action.

(Thanks to the organisation:  I am thou, for the extraction of the important bits)

(if you don't think you can meditate: you can. Meditation is nothing more than giving your intuition, your wisdom and your heart equal space to work on an issue.)

Whenever you get the urge to help or give, ask yourself, first of all, the ''Must I do this now" questions. Then ask yourself the Why, Who and What questions. When you have answered all these questions clearly and truthfully you will know exactly what to expect from indulging your urges: gratitude, recognition, respect? No. The issue has been solved, or improved, or changed. Time to move on. The receiving of thanks, recognition or any kind of remuneration should not be part of the deal.

Cigars from your own box
When you give time, energy or love it can only be a comfortable giving if you can walk away from it with the knowledge that you did what you could when you could and your role is played out. Sometimes that can mean getting someone else to do the work, or letting someone else enjoy the fruits of your labours. If you need recognition and thanks, you are handing out a cigar from your own box: 'I am not helping you because you need help but my ego needs a stroke'.

{Thinking about this question I realised a little issue of my own: I love to give. Go shopping with the girls? Buy them some clothes, give them what we call 'stuff'. In the past that has led to irritation on my side because I actually never saw them wearing the stuff. Hindsight? they probably didn't want it but didn't know how to tell me without hurting my feelings. Not wearing the clothes hurt my feelings too, but that was my own fault. I gave for my own pleasure, not theirs. Always backfires!!!!.} 


Giving should be unconditional, be it love, support, money or advice. Give and let go. While you tie strings to it, your love and support are hobbled, handicapped. Let them fly free and they will thrive. And so will you. And if it is wasted? Let that go too. Look for the lesson to be learned and move on. Love and gifts are never wasted...