At Christmas, Tommy and I didn't try to force anything. We decided only to do what we could do, even though admitting limitations can be hard at such seemingly "magical" times as Christmas is in our families and in our culture. For instance, our new grandbaby got to be "Baby Jesus" in a Christmas play before the whole church on Christmas morning in the Sunday morning worship service, her daddy (our son) being Joseph, and her mother (our daughter-in-law) being Mary!!! We knew, as much as we wanted to be there, for grief reasons, we could not. This could have been a major disappointment to my son and his wife but they extended much grace toward us.
Then, they were to celebrate Christmas with us on Christmas afternoon, but as it turned out, I got NO sleep on Christmas Eve night, so I had to cancel our celebration plans for that afternoon. They dropped by at 10 that night instead, due to a supernatural "coincidence" in timing: When they were driving home from my son's in-laws' house they saw Tommy taking our trash out for trash pick-up due to come the next day, Tommy also saw them and excitedly waved them into the driveway. They were able to visit us for about an hour and open their presents, and we made plans to go to their house the next day for further celebration.
The next day, even though we also had plans to go by the cemetery, we went by their house and had a joyful time watching our grand daughter jump in the new jumperoo we had given her the night before ~ her smiles and squeals of joy melted the trauma right off our grieving hearts and brought us to life!!!
It was a perfect scenario of authenticity ~ accepting our own limitations, and our children accepting our limitations set the grace-in-motion so true of love that was able to culminate in a joyful celebration with one another as we authentically showed our love to them and to our grandchild with no regrets and no actions based out of fear.
How refreshing. How grace-filled. How rewarding. And for our gift to our grandbaby to align exactly with her developmental needs of the moment was an exquisite moment of joy for all to behold. God is good. No actions performed out of guilt. Just sweet, pure moments of love expressed in joy.
Dr. Athena Staik teaches more about this kind of authentic giving of ourselves in an article I just received in the 12/28/2011 Psych Central Newsletter today:
By ATHENA STAIK, PH.D.
Being authentically you is perhaps one of the greatest gifts you can give, not only to those that mean the world to you, but also to the people in your life in general – and especially to yourself.
What does it mean to be courageously and authentically you, and why is this a precious gift?
Authenticity is the permission you give yourself to be real, to be who you are, aware of warts and graces. This permission frees you to give and to live in relation to your self and others, especially key others, from a place of love, and not fear.
It’s precious because how you relate – give and receive – directly impacts the balance of your life and relationships.
And, speaking of fears, our deepest fears are not about spiders, snakes or bridges, which are surface fears in comparison. Our deepest fears have to do with intimacy and our deepest yearnings for meaningful connection, contribution, and relationships; they are matters of the heart.
To choose to live authentically is to choose to love authentically, a conscious way of feeling safe enough to love – give – with your whole heart.
And that means safe enough to set judicious limits, say or accept ‘no’ and ‘yes’ as viable options. Loving authentically with your whole heart means taking essential steps to consciously:
- Treat others and, at the same time, yourself with dignity and care.
- Give (to others and self) from a place of love – not fear.
- Remain open and empathically connected rather than defensive (triggered) when you face what most personally challenges you in relational contexts.
Why set healthy limits on your giving? When you set healthy limits, you:
- Give and express yourself from a place inside you that is authentic as it is rooted in your love – rather than fear, shame or guilt.
Being an authentic you has a lot to do with getting to know, to fully accept, and to love yourself and life in ways that allow you to authentically connect to connect to the courage to love with your whole heart.
It is only when you take one hundred percent responsibility for your inner emotional state and responses that you allow yourself to experience emotional fulfillment and personal transformation.
- Stand up for yourself from a place that intentionally sends a message that you like and respect yourself enough to treat yourself and the other with dignity even in challenging situations when emotions are pulling you in another direction.
One of the most important ways to express authenticity is in how you relate to your self. Others know from how you present yourself what is okay and not okay, in terms of how you want others to treat you. When you nurture a healthy space inside you, as well as around and between you and others, you send a clear message that you like and respect yourself, that you know what you want and do not want, and, most importantly, that you are aware of what you most need and value in life.
Thus, when you love with your whole heart, a required skill to cultivate is the capacity to remain open and vulnerable – in triggering contexts – without getting triggered.
Nurturing healthy limits in the way you love, give and express yourself is one of the most important ways to improve your relationships and your life, thus, your happiness.
- Setting healthy limits simultaneously conveys respect to others as persons, even when you strongly disagree with their viewpoint or feel pain in response to actions they took.
This is impossible to do, if you do not come from a place of deep respect and honor for yourself that is completely not dependent upon whether the other is treating you in the way you most want and deserve to be treated.
There are a number of things you can do to ensure that stress does not negatively affect your personal and relational well-being. You can schedule regular fun time. Eat healthful, nutritious meals. Exercise. Stretch. Breathe. Meditate. All of these are essential practices, proven by a substantial body of research, to be effective.
A lifestyle of conscious caring for your health helps remove much of the intensity and reactivity, and needless anguish. When you care for your body, you care for your mental health. You are strengthened to withstand the everyday pressures of life and relationships.
Much of the suffering we experience in relationship conflict, however, is related to limiting belief, and old ways we have learned to think and to talk — to ourselves — and to one another. In addition to a healthful lifestyle, your ability to communicate can be your greatest asset if you want to protect your happiness, and to more effectively deal with the challenges you face in relating to those closest to you.
In other words, what you say and, especially, how you say things matters when it comes to your happiness. It sets the tone for your giving and receiving – in other words, how you relate to your self and others.
Do you nurture healthy boundaries and limits in your relationships? Do your actions send a message that you respect and value yourself, your time and contribution? Do your actions similarly convey that you respect and value others and their contributions? Do you know how to “teach” others to respect you, or how to communicate your respect, especially in moments when you or others are seemingly unlovable?
Pause for a moment to reflect on the following statements; then use the scale below to rate how true each statement is for you:
0 – Not at all
1 – Occasionally
2 – Somewhat
3 – Moderately
4 – A lot
5 – Nearly Always
____ I find it difficult to stand up for myself.
____ I tolerate hurtful or sarcastic comments out of fear or worry.
____ I say “yes” to things I do not want to do, then resent it.
____ I feel powerless around pushy people and do what they want.
____ I feel others must be shamed or intimidated to do what is right.
____ I avoid ‘rocking the boat’ and go to great lengths to stop conflict.
____ I think “rocking the boat” is the only way to get things done.
____ I feel unsure and hesitant when it comes to handling conflict.
____ I say what I want, when and how I want to say it.
____ I think I must “please” others to feel okay or to not guilty.
____ I take what people say to me or about me personally.
____ I worry about what people are thinking of me.
If your score is higher than 10, you may benefit from developing more courage to be authentic and to set healthier limits. If your score is higher than 20, taking steps to nurture healthy limits and authentic connections with your self and others may need urgent attention. Your personal and relational happiness and well-being depend upon it.
When you are authentic, you love with your whole heart, you feel safe enough to remain open and vulnerable. Authenticity is about fully owning the power you have to make choices at any moment regarding how you will respond, or relate, to yourself and to life around you.
The first step? Know your triggers. More on this in the next post.
Choose to give the gift of being authentically you, and you will transform your life and relationships in ways that will surely surprise and delight you.
Do you have any instances of "authentic giving" amidst your grief? We would love to hear them! Please feel free to comment below!