Love Asks for the Very Thing We Don't Want to Give


In a special for PBS, the late spiritual teacher, Wayne Dyer, told a story about the time he taught his son a life lesson. He described how his son, Sands, had become especially fond of, and attached to, a specific shirt that was, hands-down, his favorite piece of clothing. He asked Sands if he could have the shirt, not offering anything in return, and for the simple reason that he was his father and he wanted it. At first, Sands asked Wayne if he wanted to select one of his many other shirts instead, perhaps one that didn’t occupy any particular place in his heart; but no, Wayne insisted: he wanted his favorite shirt, and further, he planned on wearing it every day until Sands no longer felt the pain of its absence.

Eventually, the emotional charge Sands felt over giving away the shirt lessened, and he came to discover that the shirt, while being his favorite, was meaningless; what mattered was the love he expressed for his father. His reticence to give away a prized possession came from a place of fear, a place that, oftentimes, results in our clinging to things, people, and circumstances, that we refuse to let go of.

Love, a term that I use interchangeably with God, asks for our favorite shirt.

Love is aware that we would hand over our ill-fitting attire, that too-green dress we bought in Boca, or those black pants that pinch at our hips, but that’s not what Love wants. Love asks us to surrender what we most want to withhold. This concept applies to all areas of our lives, and we can search within ourselves for the places where we are the most reluctant to give. We can ask: where in my life am I withholding? In my romantic life, with my friendships, my career, or my family? In which part of my life I am being stingy? Where and with whom am  I withholding time, affection, forgiveness, etc.?

This is the part of our life that elicits resistance from us. We cling to fear, and in doing so, we operate from a place of lack, a place of I don’t have enough to give, and so I’m going to keep my love, belongings, time, money, whatever the case may be, all to myself. It’s different for everyone. For one person, he or she might not have a problem accepting a new person into their group of friends; for another, they might respond judgmentally and with skepticism. For some of us, forgiveness is easy; for others, we carry around bricks of resentment like we’re going to exchange them in one day for thousand dollar bills.

In A Return to Love, Marianne Williamson writes, “Some of us don’t mind giving up our attachment to career goals, but there’s no way we’re going to surrender our romantic relationships, or vice versa. Everything we don’t care about that much-fine-God can have it. But if it’s really, really important, we think we better handle it ourselves.” We must give EXACTLY what we don’t want to give. When we look where we don’t want to give, that is where our lesson lies. That is the place where we can grow the most.

How else does withholding show up in our lives? We refuse to drop resentments. We cling to the idea that we are right and another person is wrong. We say that we know better, and we don’t want to compromise. We tell our partners that we cannot let go of the past, or we cannot give more than they give. We list things out tit-for-tat, focusing on equanimity, using words like, It’s  only fair, or If this person acted differently, so would I. It is at these times that we sacrifice our peace and alignment by withholding from the people in our lives. It is at the moment when we decide to let go of a grievance or give the very thing we are most reluctant to surrender that open the doorway to transformation.

Love wants us to let down our boundaries and soften our hearts. Love wants to teach us that when we serve others, we serve ourselves. Love wants us to stop pushing people away. Love wants us to open up. To trust. To forgive. To let go. To drop our victimhood stories and embrace our strengths. That is the spiritual path: giving what we most want to withhold; stretching beyond our comfort zone, and saying yes at the very moment our egos most want to say no.