Santa Says: “Don’t Be Good!” From Unhealthy “Giving” to Authenticity and Love

What is it about the holidays that can be so bitter-sweet? Dealing with family issues and personalities that trigger you in the worst ways… Being around the people you love the most but who may not “see” you for who you truly are.

And then there’s the “giving” season. Maybe you long to help in a meaningful way but are bogged down with a giant To Do list of supposedly “good” things that give you no joy. Only stress, franticness, disconnect.

Stop Doing Good!
Here’s the challenge: STOP going through the motions of “good” and START getting to know yourself, accepting yourself and finding the unique ways that YOU are meant to give in the world.

Start Doing Love
In my own tradition, the Bible says “If I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing” (1st Corinthians 13). That’s worth re-reading. I’ll give you a second (…………………………………). Mother Theresa echoes the same idea when she writes, “There are no great deeds. Only small deeds done with great love.”

So, it’s not the deed but the love put into the deed? My meditation practice, from Eastern roots, has similar teachings. I’ve been taught that while meditating I should stay in the same posture unless my body or mind becomes too caught up in misery. When I can no longer return to a place of “equanimity” than it is better to change postures so I don’t harm myself “rolling around in misery.” In this tradition also, the mental-emotional state is more important than the action.

So, if you want to do something “good” and your motivation is NOT love, then what would it be?

From Unhealthy “Giving” to Authenticity and Love
The holidays are rife with supposed “good” deeds you’re expected to do that every fiber in your body is screaming against (can I say “holiday cards”?). Let’s say, for example, your Mom wants you to drive all the way to Los Angeles to pick up your sister from the airport and drive her back to San Diego. In some other scenario, you would love to oblige. But in this case, you are livid you’re being asked and feel like you’re not allowed to say no without being the Bad Guy.

So, here’s my challenge to you… Say no.

Think through the reasons you DON’T want to do it. Do they include enabling someone’s unhealthy behavior (ie. your sister never takes responsibility for herself!)? Or maybe your Mom imposes her idea of “right and wrong” on you and doesn’t respect your own ways of giving? Chances are there’s something sick here disguised as “good”.

Now think through the reasons you WOULD do that thing. Do they include being afraid of rocking the boat, needing approval from certain people or preserving an image of yourself as the “nice guy”? Maybe you’ve internalized a feeling of unworthiness  (“If I were a nicer person I would do it”) or bought into the paradigm that prioritizes the action over your state of heart, the physical over the Spiritual.

The Middle Path: Do LOVE, Not “Good”

Step 1- Be honest with yourself.  If you answered the questions above and found your motivations lacking, courageously and courteously say no to doing that “good” thing. If you didn’t find shady motivations but just don’t have the heart to go that extra mile then be kind and compassionate with yourself and say no. Accept and honor the human that you are in this moment. Forgive yourself. You are a work in progress! And know that doing that deed with resentment instead of love in your heart will harm you and those around you (perhaps especially the person it was supposed to benefit).

Step 2- Get creative! Now here’s the fun part. Think about what “small deed done with great love” you WOULD like to do. Maybe it’s as simple as bringing the paper to your neighbor’s doorstep or picking up a piece of trash on the street. Maybe you want to leave an anonymous flower on your friend’s desk at work. These are YOUR good things. DO THEM NOW!

Step 3- Repeat Step 2 over and over and over again. You will have so much fun and simultaneously be building a sense of yourself as good and worthy and learning to listen to your own inner voice. You are on your own unique path of love!

The Path To Authenticity and Intimacy
I think I come back to Authenticity every year because it has so much to do with intimacy. Not feeling known by those you love most can be painful. Unpassionately or resentfully going through the motions of others’ expectations always leaves you looking bad– in your own eyes as well as others’. And during the Holidays there are a slew of things we’re “supposed to” do that are often just not our thing.

This year, rather than getting strung-out or dulled by the proverbial To Do List, clear your calendar and redirect your energies toward your own loving deeds. Yes, you will deal with some anger from the Rules Committee but others will notice how calm and serene you look, how happy. You will glow. You will feel great about yourself. With repetition, people will stop seeing you for what you are NOT (ie. everyone else) and begin to see the real YOU… for the unique expression of Love that you are.

So go out there and do no “Good” deeds this holiday season… only your own small deeds of Great LOVE. [more on “finding yourself” and creating the life you you want]

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