Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Openhandedness

Overheard conversation:

Mommy: “You will lose marker privileges for a week.”
P: “Why?”
M: “Because you colored in the living room and ruined my couch.”
P: “But it’s not your couch. It’s Heavenly Father’s.”

I have a friend (who also happens to be my cousin) who believes in a way of being that I refer to as “openhandedness.” She is constantly teaching me about it, and I am only beginning to learn how to put myself into a place where I can live it, although I see the value of it and yearn deeply to be there. I guess that new book people are raving about (is it called “The Secret”?) is a sort of twisted variation of it, but here’s how it goes:

Give freely.

That’s it. Of course, you could expend it to talk about the benefits of it, but I think that this is where the book (which I admit I haven’t read) goes wrong. The book, from what I can tell, propounds a “give first so that you can get” mentality. You send positive things out into the world IN ORDER THAT you can be the recipient of positive things (mostly in the form of material blessings) coming back to you. But the right kind of openhandedness, I think, is the same concept, same actions, same results but with different motivation.

The right motivation could be that it’s the right thing to do, it’s the Christian thing to do, it’s what pleases God, and that all things are God’s anyway. It could be. But not for me. For me, the right motivation is that it is the only way to be truly free. (So I guess I’m saying that I believe in it because I feel good doing it. Maybe that’s not the most noble reason. But there it is.)

So I want to move more in this direction in my life because it feels so darn good! Not good in a “oh, boy, I’m really earning points in heaven” way or a martyr way or even a “now good things will come to me” way. Just good in a dancing-unencumbered-through- my-life kind of way.

But it is still hard, and I think that there are aspects of our LDS culture that make it harder. The concept of self-sufficiency, for example. I feel torn—the money I’m giving away could be used to pay down debt, or build up food storage, or build up savings against emergencies. The things I give away could be sold, and the money could be used for some of these things. Should all giving wait until I have paid off all my debt and built up all my savings and food storage? I must find a way to balance between trusting that God, the source of all stuff (including brains and stamina used in the earning of money), will take care of me if I live openhandedly, and using my brain to make sure that I and my family are provided for. Unfortunately, the “balancing” so far has meant that I mostly give only those things that are easy to give, that don’t hurt, that aren’t really much of a sacrifice. I don’t like this.

I guess I should trust the Spirit to guide me here, when it comes to things that are a sacrifice. That’s hard for me because I’m not sure I believe that we’re supposed to rely on the Spirit to micromanage things that maybe we’ve been taught well enough to decide for ourselves. I’m not sure about this one. (I’m definitely envious of the people who say that the Spirit guides them in every small and large decision they make.)

Well, I guess I’d better wrap this up and go clean up Heavenly Father’s sofa.

6 comments:

Angie said...

I struggle with the same thing, for the same reasons.

Ang said...

I bet Heavenly Father likes the sofa better with the marker on it. I haven't read The Secret, but heard about it on Oprah, and to me it seems to place way too much blame for struggles on the individual (as well as way to much credit for spiritually dubious successes, like money) but I DO agree that living in such a way that you give without thinking of what you might get return is the most peaceful way to live. Living with a tally sheet ("you got this, so now I get that," "I gave you this, now you do this for me") is utterly exhausting, imo. Good post!

compulsive writer said...

That's so funny! Great post! (And I can relate. I like thinking about relying more on the spirit to help me be wise.)

Jennifer B. said...

Been catching up on your blog. I love getting glimpses into your brain. (I used to use mine quite regularly, you know.)

Anonymous said...

Dear Darlene,
You do give freely. Think of the time you let me go shopping without money in your food storage, and all the kind gift certificates and prayers and love over the years. So, you already do what you admire in others. Love, Kathryn

Darlene said...

Um, what gift certificates?