“Stinginess” Meditation 10

“Stinginess” Carden Meditation #10

“Stinginess cramps my soul.
 Stinginess shuts out my friend.
 Stinginess smothers my kindliness.
 Stinginess stifles me.      Oh God, take away my stinginess.”

Most associate stinginess with money.  Too easy.  I think it’s much deeper and more visceral and prevalent than that. Even if we’re generous with our means and our time, we’re likely still ‘holding back’ what’s most difficult to give….ourselves.

That’s a form of pride, because giving freely leaves us exposed; vulnerable; naked.

Whose life could be made better if you invested more of yourself to them?  To stay connected?  To be genuinely interested?  To be open?  What experience have you had that could benefit another if you weren’t too prideful or competitive to reveal?

Sometimes we’re stingy with compliments, encouragement, kindness, commendation. Even ‘likes’.  Things that are soooo easy to give and cost us nothing, but we still withhold stridently to protect our egos and insecurities.

Are we stingy because of our own selfish desires?  Do you and I make time to talk to the boring co-worker who needs only our friendship?  Do we make time to validate a spouse’s interests?  Do we push our children away because so many other things are much more engaging?

Now let’s get real.  And raw.  Ask yourself: Do you celebrate or resent the ideal in anyone else? Are you genuinely happy when others succeed or do you take some twisted delight in their failure? Consider sibling rivalry (Cain & Abel) or comparisons among friends or neighbors or former classmates or even a former spouse? If celebrating another’s hardships isn’t satanic, then what is?  Maybe (and this is brutally harsh) it’s resenting the success and happiness of others. Can you be laid off and sincerely congratulate your buddy on his promotion? Single and still be happy for your friend who gets engaged?  Infertile and thrilled for your sister when she becomes a mother?  Satan is alone; angry; single; infertile; the eternal bachelor.  And he’s not just bitter and angry, he resents anyone who isn’t….“for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” 2 Nep 2:27

Stinginess has as much to do with how we share the success of others and it does  with how we share our own.

I’m guilty of being stingy in more ways than I can count.  Meditation #10 has haunted me for years, and I’ve not yet mastered it.  I wrote about it in 2010.  Today’s addendum is the short version. 

Here’s what I shared with a group of women in my neighborhood back then:

“Yesterday I did something that not only embarrassed me, it made me ashamed on myself.  I thought about it all night, wrestling with it, trying to justify it, and still couldn’t honestly assess it as anything other than pride.  I’ve tried to suppress my seeming compulsion for public confession, but I’ve decided to share this with you anyway, because although we’re all unique, I think we’re more alike than we realize.  Maybe one of my public confessions will cause someone else to look their weakness in the face, call it what it is, and resolve to tame it.  You’re likely to conquer yours long before I conquer any of mine, including stinginess.

“Stinginess cramps my soul.
 Stinginess shuts out my friend.
 Stinginess smothers my kindliness.
 Stinginess stifles me.      Oh God, take away my stinginess.”

Stinginess is an ugly characteristic in anyone — regardless of age or circumstance.  It is as distasteful in adults as it is in toddlers who are unwilling to share their toys.  Usually we’re quick to correct stinginess in children, and hesitant to acknowledge it in ourselves.

Probably all of us are guilty of some form of stinginess.  Sometimes we’re stingy with our possessions.  Sometimes we’re stingy with our time.  Sometimes we’re stingy with our ideas.

Although I’m guilty of all three, usually I find it easier to share my means or my time than to share my ideas. Hoarding ideas is a symptom of competitiveness and pride and I’m ashamed of it.  And, I think more often women are afflicted with this type of stinginess than men.  Too often, women are out to impress each other. What we’re after is praise and recognition from others — but most typically from EACH other. (All of you who are currently losing sleep over what to do for neighborhood Christmas gifts know exactly what I’m talking about here — admit it!)

It can manifest itself in various ways.  We withhold information and opportunities so as to grasp them only for ourselves.  It’s in things as meaningless as gift ideas, and party ideas, and costumes, and clothing, and hair stylists, and recipes, and everything else you can think of.

However, men can be guilty, too.  They’re more likely to see it or fall trap to it at work and in business; or favorite hunting spots, or parking places for big games.  Maybe it’s knowing the right mechanic or investments, or whatever inside-info they have that could sincerely benefit others, but they resist sharing, too. (Just attend any Pinewood Derby and you’ll get my point)

I’ve heard this quote attributed to many people including President Hinckley, but I think it’s true regardless of who said it:

“You can do a lot of good in this world if you don’t care who gets the credit.”

Sadly, sometimes, including yesterday, I slip into caring less about doing good, and more about getting credit.  It leaves me disappointed in me.

Even though it really makes no difference, I’ve tried to figure out what motivates my behavior.  It’s pride.  And I don’t need to understand it or justify it.  I just need to admit it and overcome it.

Most people would consider my father an austere man.  He was, but I also knew him to be quick-witted and possessed of a wry sense of humor.  I thoroughly enjoyed his company.  He was generous with his means, but tight-fisted with his affection or praise.  If any of us ever did anything to warrant his positive attention, it was quite an accomplishment.  And I sought it.  He’s been in the grave nearly 17 years now and in some warped way, I still seek it.

Things that impressed my father were punctuality, intelligence, honesty, integrity, cleanliness, athletic prowess, moral uprightness, self-discipline, fiscal responsibility, and creativity.  That creativity thing can be a double-edged sword.  My father always encouraged me to do things in an original way; to be creative; to resist just being one of the crowd.  I guess with a name like Drexel, I was destined to approach life with a little different perspective than the Marys and the Susans of the world. (absolutely no offense intended to the Marys and Susans out there)

Sadly, that motivation to be original, sometimes suppresses my willingness to share ideas with others.  In my messed up head, somehow if someone does the same thing I do, it’s value will be diminished by becoming common.

C.S. Lewis summed it up when he stated that pride takes no pleasure in having something — only in the having more of it than someone else.  I hurts to admit how often I’m guilty of that.  I bet you’re guilty, too.

Over a year ago I had some creative ideas.  Friends of mine contributed to the ideas and the resulting production was a success.  It involved a lot of work and quite a little expense, but it was worth it.  It was a satisfying experience for me.  Well yesterday I had the option of sharing that idea.  It would have cost me nothing.  I could have shared the expense, too.  I’d already made the purchase and allowing someone else to use it would have helped them and cost me nothing.

But I was stingy.  I held back.  I offered some of what I had, but not all.

That is prideful.

What’s worse is the person who I could have benefitted doesn’t even know me.  Her event had nothing to do with me or anyone around me.  It was absolutely non-competitive, but I still allowed my stinginess to cramp my soul, shut out my friend, smother my kindness, and stifle me.

That’s why today I feel ashamed and disappointed I felt and acted that way.

About 2 days later I came to my senses.  I realized how stupid I had behaved and tried to make up the difference.  I offered what I’d held back before, but it was too late.  The situation had already been cankered and it was obvious my new generosity was a little disingenuous.

Now it’s months later and I can’t believe I ever saw any reason to hold back. It made absolutely no sense. I wish I could hit rewind and handle the whole opportunity in a mature unselfish way, but I can’t.

More than that, I’d like to think I’ll never act that way again.  But I won’t know that until the next opportunity arises and I find out if I’ll rise up to it, or slip back into stingy-mode.

I’m still apprehensive about sharing all this.  The irony is that pride is probably the source of that apprehension.  I don’t want to be considered a jerk any more than you do.  I don’t want to convey the impression that all my motivations are prideful.  I can honestly say that they aren’t.  I can honestly say that  I don’t approach every assignment or opportunity in a competitive way, but my exposing myself may lead you to think otherwise.  And I’m confident I’m still more ensnared with pride than I fully recognize or am willing to admit.  And even though I have lots of company in that condition, it doesn’t make it anything other than the vice that it is.

I’m not sure why I’m exposing my fleshy-underbelly to all of you, but if it helps you or me overcome even a portion of our prideful tendencies, I’m hoping it’ll be worth it.”

Oh God, take away my stinginess.

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