When are you at your best, most alive and caring? When is it that your feet barely touch the ground because you are so excited? I am sure when you think about these questions you will find that you were focused on giving, providing, serving or loving somebody else.

Recall a few times when you were really happy. I mean really happy! Were you turned inward, focusing on yourself and your needs, were you concerned about how you were going to get all of your “to do’s” done, complaining that people don't treat you better or feeling how come I do so much for others and get so little in return? Of course not! It was when you were giving, lending a helping hand, providing a service, sharing a smile with a stranger, holding a door open for someone, serving on a volunteer committee, or visiting a person in the hospital. You were not in a victim position waiting for the world to serve you better. Instead, you were actively doing for another.

Another component of the emotional and spiritual high that comes from providing and serving others is that we must expect nothing in return. Expectations always get us in trouble. When we expect, there is a feeling that we are due something in return. Giving while looking for a “thank you”, a kind word, a pat on the back or some acknowledgment, is not really giving but rather manipulating to get a desired result for yourself. For example, if you run a hot bath for your wife and then expect her to be sexual with you, this is not giving but a set up intended to manipulate an apparent kind gesture into getting sex for yourself. Pretty sneaky. Our hearts need to be open for it to be real giving.

If being loving, that is, providing for others without expectations, performing acts of kindness focusing outside of oneself and towards others, is the answer to all problems, why is it so difficult? When we were young children, we developed needs that were not always met and injuries that were not necessarily healed by our parents or primary caretakers. Later, we then expect our intimate partners to heal the wounds and make up for unfulfilled needs.

Nature taught us as babies that we need others in order to survive. We are so dependent, we cannot even feed ourselves. So many of us began to look outside of ourselves to find others to meet our needs and heal our wounds. There must be someone out there who can help us.

It is completely normal for children to be dependent on their parents while they are young. Good parenting provides a process to teach the child how to meet his/her own needs and not to look to others for this. When parents fail in this process, the child becomes confused in how to find happiness. It can make the child dependent on others. We have only transferred our dependence on our parents who let us down to someone else who has the potential to hurt us. Our confusion helped us think that the way to be happy was to get love, kindness, caring, affection, and compassion from others. The flow is in the wrong direction.

Happiness comes from giving, providing, serving, and contributing to others. This is why God put so many people on earth; so we could find at least one person to love. Get with the flow and direction to true bliss, peace and fulfillment. Some of you are probably asking, “what about me?” How come somebody isn't caring and focusing on me? Why do I have to go first? This is a commonly asked question. You have to go first — begin conscious living and attention to others — because you are the one who is reading this column — seeking greater happiness for your family. You have to lead the way.

What is real giving? When the gift — a hug, a glass of water, a smile, a hello, I like the way you look, I missed you - is expressed with an open heart. Open heartedness is a condition that we all possess at birth and as we grow older, open to the people in the world around us. Unfortunately, our open heartedness was sometimes assaulted by angry voices, mean remarks, harsh and offensive looks - just to name a few. We had to cover up our openness and develop a hiding place or create a pretense in order to survive.

There is a cure. It won't cost you any money. It is God-given and we all have the asset deep inside of us. Be loving! Let that thought sink in; don't allow your negative mind to dismiss it. Take the challenge: be kinder, gentler, more giving, more attentive, more willing to serve and provide, more committed to being a real partner to the most important people in your life. Perform one loving act, providing for, serving another, giving to others every day for a month. Make it your top priority; I guarantee this new behavior will change you and, therefore, your relationships. Make a commitment; get started! Let's continue to discuss this. If you like send me an email…let me know what your behavioral changes are…and do you see any differences in your life. Go to: www.familyconsultationservices.com/articles.

•••

Tom Power is a family relationship consultant and the author of “Family Matters: A Layperson’s Guide to Family Functioning.” You can check out his website at www.familyconsultationservices.com or email questions to changeUprogram@gmail.com.

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