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This article was posted by human excellence consultant, Cilette Harris on the Schuitema blog.
Benefits of Maturity: The Joy of Giving
During a recent Care and Growth discussion at one of our clients – Pioneer Foods Group (PFG) in Durban – Praveen Bissoondut shared an inspirational short article with the group. The article, written by US based family therapist Rod Smith, encourages the commitment to courage and generosity in the pursuit of higher functioning.
The PFG Durban team uniformly agreed that living with generosity and courage is a choice that we should make each day for our lives to be meaningful. We concluded that ‘doing the right thing’ – whether out of generosity or courage – is not always easy; but when we do it we feel secure, fulfilled and powerful and we experience harmony with others and the world. We discussed why immature and mature people would respond differently in the same situation, and it became evident that ultimately our level of maturity determines our behaviour.
What is the difference between maturity and immaturity? When we examine the behaviour attributed to mature and immature people it becomes clear that the main difference is that the mature person will do what serves other people (i.e. give to others) whilst the immature person will do what suits themselves regardless of the impact on others (i.e. take from others). The mature person will generally be experienced as respectful, trusting, courteous and accountable because they are concerned with the other instead of the self. An immature person’s behaviour will be rude, suspicious of others, unreliable because they are focused on their own needs. The mature person will be able to discern what they can do to make a contribution in the situation whilst the immature person’s perception will be clouded by what they need to get out of the situation.
Therefore, if I want to grow my own maturity, I have to do the inner work that will help me to move from being self-serving to serving others. I have to understand that this means that I will change both my internal motives – my intent – and my external behaviour – what I give my attention to in any given situation. We can summarise this by arguing that each of us needs to mature our intent from being here to get to being here to give unconditionally.
So what does giving unconditionally mean? We need to unpack this to really understand it, so let’s begin by looking at giving: In our transactional correctness model we define it as giving each situation its due. It means that I will do what is appropriate in this situation or moment because of my intrinsic motivation to do so. Therefore my external behaviour – which will be generous or courageous – will reflect the inner motives of gratitude and trust. When we experience a deep sense of gratitude for what we have, most of which we did nothing to deserve – we unlock a well a generosity that serves the world. When we trust that we are part of a world that is benevolent and requires no control on our part to work perfectly and divinely, we can act with courage and will not submit to our fear of any negative consequences.
Furthermore, when I give unconditionally, I am giving without expecting a specific response in return. I am therefore not motivated by what may happen as a result of my behaviour, but by my intent to do the right thing – regardless of the outcome. It means that I will be concerned with the correctness (appropriateness) of my intent, which requires me to submit to the moment – and ‘see things as they are’ without imposing my own selfish or suspicious motives on the moment to achieve a specific outcome.
I will be liberated from rebelling against reality by trying to control the outcome, and I will become powerful by doing what sits uniquely in my hands; because I have submitted to the moment. I will be a mature human being.
How do we do the inner work that helps us mature? We now understand that maturity is a function of our intent, and is reflected in what we give our attention to in life. Intent is concerned with time – i.e. it is how I intend to give appropriately when I am next required to give a situation its due. It does not apply to any given or real situation in the external world. Attention, on the other hand, is concerned with place – it is what I will do right here in this moment due to what my attention is concerned with. It has to do with how I respond to a real occurrence.
This shows clearly why it would be useful to work with how our attention functions, in order to mature our intent; and not to attempt to grow our maturity solely by deciding to change our intent. What we give attention to is governed by our internal dialogue and this will often defeat the noblest intent before it turns into consistent practice. It will determine whether our attention is given to serving the other or serving the self. It will govern whether we can ‘see things as they truly are’: whether our view of the world in this moment will be coloured by gratitude versus resentment; or by trust versus suspicion.
One of the helpful ways to change how our attention functions; is to change the nature of our internal dialogue. We need to change our ‘mind’ about how we see the world so we can break free of the presumptions that we have become imprisoned by. This means that we become an observer who sees ‘to understand’ and not to name or judge that which we think or assume we see. The latest research in neuroscience has shown that this requires us to build new neural pathways in our brain, so that we can let go of thinking habits that confine our internal dialogue to presumption. In doing this, we change how our brain works – so that we can change our mind permanently, forming new helpful thinking habits.
The journey from immaturity to maturity is one of courage and humility – it challenges us to turn the spotlight on our own intent; to reflect and then change so we become consistently benevolent in our motive towards the other. It requires us to cultivate an internal dialogue that will direct our attention to this benevolence. Each time we choose to do the right thing, we grow.