Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Putting Ourselves First - A Path Leading to Love?

While the plane taxied out of the gate at Toronto Pearson Airport the other morning, on the small screen in front of me, they were showing an ad which showed a sullen child who was pouting no matter what toy was shown to her. After several attempts to encourage the child to smile, the parent had nearly given up when the girl looked up at a passing sales cart and saw a soft toy which brought about a change in the child’s demeanour.

The father immediately bought the toy, presented it to his daughter, and was rewarded with a smile and a joyful hug. The point of the ad was obviously to sell the toy to the watching audience.

However, I felt that there was also an underlying message that this child should be placated, no matter what. No way should this child be allowed to be unhappy. After all attempts to improve her demeanour failed, the pouting only stopped when she got what she wanted. The father jumped through all the hoops he could in order to please his daughter. It was a supreme example about putting others first, no matter what the cost.

In life, we often find ourselves putting others first – and there are occasions when this serves everyone involved. In fact, many philosophies and belief systems subscribe to this ideal. The word, ‘love’, is often defined as the action of putting others before ourselves. However, if we establish a pattern of living our lives for others – we may realize that we have fallen into the trap of being ‘people pleasers’. If this continues, we may be sacrificing our own joy and may even begin to feel a little resentful.

Minutes later, while nearing the runway for take-off, they were running through the emergency procedures and something caught my attention. When it came to the part where we were told that there may be a drop in cabin pressure, it was explained that masks would drop down to supply oxygen for each passenger. If you had a young child with you, it was imperative to put the mask on yourself first and then only after you had done this, should you put the mask on your child.

I remember the very first time I saw this, it struck me as odd that the parent would serve themselves first, before securing the mask on their child. Shouldn’t it be the other way round? Upon quick reflection, I realized that, if the parent became incapacitated in any way, due to the sudden lack of oxygen, then she would be in no position to help the child. Very quickly, it became obvious to me that, by putting herself first, the child’s safety and well-being was more likely to be secured.

It may seem incongruous to say that by tending to our own happiness, we are ultimately going to be more effective in what we have to offer others. Being ‘selfish’ enough to ensure that our own inner alignment is in place may be the most loving thing we can do for others.

The founder of Christianity is portrayed as teaching people to ‘Seek first the Kingdom of God, and then all these other things shall be added unto you.’ Elsewhere, he exclaimed that, ‘The Kingdom of God is within you’.

The Buddha also taught that, ‘The way is not in the sky. The way is in the heart’; and elsewhere, ‘Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.’

It would seem that these seekers of wisdom had come to know that, unless we are in a good-feeling place ourselves, we will have very little to offer anyone around us. Inner Alignment is the most important thing we need to achieve in order to be in the vicinity of unconditional love which will overflow into the hearts of others.

Once we come to understand that we have not come into this life experience to be people pleasers or to feather the nest for others, no matter how close we may be to them, we will be free to seek first the inner peace and calm tranquility that can become the stepping off place for real change and loving transformation of those around us. When others witness our inner alignment, we are then in a position to influence them to their own alignment from which their peace and joy will flow.

Maybe we should have the courage to be a little more ‘selfish’, so that the world may become a happier, more peaceful place.

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