December 14

Give What You Have, Plus One

December 14, 2011

Personal Growth

"My brother is so demanding," Carl said. "He's such a victim. Complains all the time. Nobody can ever do enough for him. Just being around him drains me right down to my bones."

"So let's suppose," I said, "that you could quantify your brother's neediness for love, on a scale of one to one hundred—with one hundred being most needy. How needy would your brother be?"

"Probably ninety."

"And on an average day, how much do you have to give him--freely?"

"Oh, about fifteen."

"And that's why you empty out so quickly when he's around."

"Makes sense. So what can I do?"

"A general guideline would be that you give what you have, plus one."

"What do you mean?"

"Offer your brother fifteen units--because that's all you have—and then you attempt to slightly stretch your ability to love. That's how we grow. So you give him sixteen units—fifteen plus one."

"What if that's not enough for him? I can tell you it won't be."

"Listen carefully. If it's not enough, it's not enough. You can't give more than you have, anymore than you can be taller than you are. If what you have to give isn't enough for your brother, then you have to be satisfied with your efforts, even if he is not. We're obligated only to do our best to love, never to fill the needs of another person."

People will often tell us that our efforts to love them—to care for them, be with them, and more—are insufficient, and then they commonly tell us that we as people are not enough. While it is true that we often lack the amount of love people need, that is not an indictment of our worth. We may simply need more time and practice with loving, or we may not be the problem at all. It may be that the other person is incapable of receiving what we offer.

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