“Put on your own mask first” is flawed

“You must put on your own mask first before assisting others.”

This makes sense in an emergency flight situation, because if you try to help someone put on their oxygen mask before you have yours on, it is likely you will pass out very quickly before you can finish helping them, leading to a dire situation for you, and them.

We have imported this pre-flight safety element into a life philosophy. It gets used when talking about our mental health. Another one is ‘you can’t give from an empty cup’. Basically, look after yourself before you try to look after others.

It seems to fit, but it’s wrong.

These ideas assume that your mental health is not connected to the people around you, and if you are struggling with areas of life, all you need to do is to take a break from the world or isolate yourself from everyone else, recharge, feel better and then come back into the world to care for people.

There may be times when that is necessary, but the wellbeing of an individual is deeply linked to being in contact with and even caring for other people.

If you can spend time helping someone else and you can see the difference you are making, it will energise you. It is not a case of putting on your own mask first or filling your own cup up and then giving of yourself, but as you help someone else “put their mask on”, or “fill their cup”, your mask will be put on and cup will be filled up. As you care for others you will care for yourself. (Unless you don’t have generous boundaries).

One in a Million

‘You are one in a million’ is not as good as it sounds. It’s definitely not as good as it used to be.

It means that there are 7,600 more of you around the world, which doesn’t make you feel as unique. It is possible to meet them.

‘You are one in a billion’ sounds better.

Although that still means there are 7 of you out there.

One in 7.6 billion is the best, although it’s a bit clunky and not as easy to say.

This is one of the downsides to population growth.  

The global population in 1700 was about 600 million people.

By 1800 it had reached around 1 billion.

It had reached 1.6 billion by 1900, 2 billion by 1928, 5 billion by 1987 and 7.9 billion in 2021.

Since 1800 the global population has increased by 700%.

People used to freak out about this and worry about our impending doom as the sheer amount of people would surely overrun the planet, use everything and bring about the end of the world.

Why is no one worried about this now?

Because we have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. When that happens, families have less children because they can be confident that they will survive, they no longer need to think about who will look after them when they get older, and they become more educated about contraception. People’s generosity did this.

At this stage the global population should plateau at around 11 billion in 2100. Crisis just about averted.

Now, on to climate change.

The Generosity of Justice

What do we do with people when they wrong us? How should we treat them? With justice, mercy or grace?

Justice is giving someone what they deserve. An eye for an eye would be considered justice. It’s a just punishment. Now, as a society, we have decided to use isolation in a prison, along with financial fines to be what we consider justice. You do the crime, you do the time…or pay the fine.

Mercy is giving someone what they do not deserve. This is a free pass. Freedom to keep going on their way. All charges have been dropped. Debt completely cleared. We would all be drawn to mercy if we are caught doing something wrong, but it is the most dangerous of the three, if it’s in isolation.

Grace is the hard work of restoration, in partnership with either justice or mercy. It is the intentional act of drawing someone in, acknowledging what they did, that it was wrong, that it caused damage and deserves justice, offering forgiveness and a fresh start. If mercy and grace are offered and not accepted and behaviour is not changed, then the appropriate response is justice and grace– not out of a desire for revenge or retribution, but as an opportunity to grow, develop and change.

All three are an act of generosity. The gifts of justice, mercy and grace. But it is grace that has the greatest power to bring healing and restoration to people and relationships. Grace is also the hardest one to give out.

Don’t Get Stuck

“What causes a problem matters less than what maintains it” – Trevor Kashey

“Who did this?”

The question hung in the silence for what seemed like an eternity as two sets of eyes looked back at me in fear, eagerly waiting to see how they should respond to this emotional time, depending on how upset I was.

Another broken item in the home. Not an uncommon experience although it is one that drives me a little crazy.

My desire to get to the bottom of who, what, why and when of these sorts of situations can be helpful to figure out just what happened, but at the same time it can cause greater stress than the traumatic breaking of the breakfast bowl.

The result can leave kids being so afraid of breaking something that they get anxious about carrying a bowl from the kitchen to the table and in their anxiety, drop said bowl and break it. Creating more anxiety. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.

This can happen in any area of life. We can get so caught up in avoiding failure that we are afraid to act, and when something does inevitably go wrong, we can expend all this energy figuring out who or what caused it, getting stuck in the process of dealing out blame. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for accountability and being responsible for your actions, but if it’s just about discovering who to get angry at then we have missed the point. Anger doesn’t create solutions. Blame doesn’t create growth.

Instead of asking, “who did this?”, a better question is “what can we learn from this?”, or “how do we grow from this?” or “how can we improve this?”

Who or what causes a problem ‘matters less than what maintains it.’ It’s not about how we got here but it’s about where to from here.

It’s Never Too Late

You may have heard the question, when is the best time to plant a tree?

The answer is ‘20 years ago’.

The second best time to plant a tree? Right now.

There is a cost to spending time doing something.

Time spent at school could have been time spent at work.

Time spent at work could have been time spent with the family.

Time spent playing sport could have been time spent studying.

Time spent learning an instrument could have been time spent playing sport.

Time spent playing a video game could have been time spent doing anything else.

In the moment it doesn’t really matter. But over time these decisions add up, and lost time is gone forever. It’s a tree never planted. You get no shade. You get no air. You get no beauty from a tree that doesn’t exist.

It is never too late, though. You can always start now. You can always do something for the first time today, to become the type of person that you want to become – and little by little, over time, it can build up to be a new skill, a new passion, a new job. A new tree.

Generosity is just like that. I have failed many times to be generous when given the opportunity. I have written people off. Not given when the chance arose and not cared when someone was in need. But that doesn’t mean I have to live like that always. I can begin again today by being generous with my time, my care and my forgiveness.

In 20 years’ time, the small decisions I make today will grow into something that will bring beauty to all who see it.

Doormat

Being generous is considered to be a ‘good’ thing…generally. But what if you want to achieve greatness, or do difficult things, or have hard conversations? There must be a time to put generosity aside to live in the real world, right?

How do you avoid getting pushed around and becoming a doormat for people because you are generous?

To start with, generosity is borne from a love of people. Here’s part of what that looks like:

Generosity Creates Boundaries

There is a time when simply giving something to someone, be that money, time, freedom, will cause that person harm. It can enable them to continue down a destructive path, or to hurt themselves or others. It is a special act of generosity to create boundaries which protect others and yourself from harm. Just because someone asks you for something it doesn’t mean you have to say yes.

Saying yes to something means saying no to something else. Be intentional about what you say yes to.

Generosity Has Challenging Conversations

Being generous to people means calling them out and inviting them into growth opportunities. It drives someone to embrace the discomfort of a challenging conversation because, by doing that, it has the ability to help someone else grow.

“I love you too much to not see you grow in your humanity” Derwin Gray, former NFL Player, Pastor at Transformation Church.

Generosity Trains

Generosity creates opportunities for people to grow, develop and improve their lives. It encourages people to change, giving them options.

It is not generous to keep people trapped in a cycle of need, dependence and ignorance.

Generosity doesn’t make you a doormat. Generosity empowers you to empower others on their own journey.

5 Simple Acts Proven to Promote Wellbeing

The conversation about emotional wellbeing is stronger now than it has ever been. We are all conscious of what wellbeing means to us and our community, but we are still a work in progress when it comes to putting good practices in place.

I came across some research from the New Economics Foundation about the things that we can do which promote wellbeing in our lives, guaranteed. It’s a bold statement, but here are five proven things you can do right now…

  1. Connect to the people around us – building relationships with people
  2. Being active in our bodies – looking after our physical health
  3. Take notice of the world – connecting with nature, seeing beauty in the things that have become normal.
  4. Learn New Skills – trying something new and challenging ourselves
  5. Give to others – being generous.

All five are about looking beyond our current situation and seeking to change the place we are currently in. Generosity really rounds this list out.

Generosity is good for whatever ails you because it shifts your focus from you. Instead of being trapped in your own mind, ruminating on your own thoughts and challenges, it pushes you to reach out to someone else who may be in the exact same situation. A generous act of checking in on someone to see how they are going, buying them a coffee, giving some time and attention to them, is an incredible gift…to you.  

Give yourself a gift by giving to someone else.

What is Self-Generosity?

Self generosity is so important. I think most people can find some energy to be a little bit generous to others, but generosity to ourselves seems to be the hardest thing to do.

There is a troubling dynamic between self-generosity and letting yourself of the hook. It can be a challenge to know if you are being honest with yourself. I still don’t know. Am I being generous to myself (like I would with other people), or am I taking the easy way out?

I’ll be the first to admit that it can take me a little while to understand what is happening ‘within myself’. I will often ask ‘what is the emotion that I am currently feeling’, or, more often, ‘I remember feeling an emotion the other day, what was that?’ I can be slow.

But it’s my emotions that generally stop me from doing something. Like taking on a new challenge, creating an event, or making a phone call. And so, I ask myself how much weight should I give to that emotion? Is this a time to listen to listen to myself and take a break, or is this one of those times that I can push on through? Am I running from a growth opportunity or is saying ‘no’ right now keeping me mentally healthy? Am I over thinking it? Am I underthinking it? Am I asking too many questions?

Maybe you can resonate with that.

The best strategy that I use which helps me manage this process is to sit in the discomfort of whatever the emotion is, name it out loud (works better if you are alone) and articulate what I am afraid of in that moment (fear is always at work).

That is my definition of self-generosity. Noticing what I am experiencing without judgement and sitting with it. From that point I will usually know instinctively what the next step is.

Do You Want to Hear a Secret?

Do you want to hear a secret?

I can’t even remember the last time I heard someone ask that. Maybe when I was a kid, but as you grow, sharing secrets happens less and less. Not because we no longer have secrets as adults, but we just don’t share them as much.

These hidden truths about ourselves and our past create a hefty burden that we carry, and they disconnect us from the people we do life with. Often they don’t seem appropriate to share with anyone, lest we be judged and rejected, so we keep them to ourselves and pretend they are not there. After a while, life with secrets becomes normal to us as the hefty burden becomes part of us and we get used to the disconnection.

A great way to be generous to yourself, is to share those secrets that you carry, with someone else. Someone you trust, someone who loves you.

James, a great spiritual leader and a brother to Jesus, encouraged his followers to confess their sins, or the secrets that they carried, to each other to remove the disconnection they caused and restore relationships. Such is the power of sharing a secret. It brings healing.

It’s a gift to you. It gets rid of the burden and brings the people you love closer.

What Do We Do with the Bullies?

I am anti-bully. I’m against them. I think we should treat everyone we come across with kindness and generosity.

Except, sometimes I don’t live up to that. Just ask my kids.

For the most part though, kindness and generosity drives me.

There are those who still seem to bully others no matter what time of day, how much sleep they got last night or how strong their coffee is. Why is that? What do people still behave like this?

It’s a learned behaviour. They got it from somewhere when they were younger. Somebody taught them to behave like this, either intentionally or by example.

No one called them out. No one told them “this is not okay”, and follow that up with, “you aren’t able to be my friend/stay at this school/work at this company/lead this organisation/represent this entity and still behave like that.”

It works for them. They get want they want this way. It has worked for them their entire life, so why should they change now?

They are afraid. Trampling on other people does not come from a good place. It comes from someone who is deeply afraid of rejection and being hurt.

We know that they are there. We see them in our schools, workplaces and in the community. What do we do with them?

Firstly, there are consequences for behaviour. Legal, relational and social. Bullies must face those consequences.

But the most dangerous thing that we can do to bullies is to beat them down into submission. We can’t just bully the bullies and then celebrate the win because instead of creating one less bully in the world, we have created one more. Violence leads to more violence. And bullying perpetuates more bullying.

A violent take over of a country is always followed by a violent take over of the country. Unless someone intentionally fosters peace in amongst the violence. It’s the same for how we relate to people within our community.

The most generous thing we can do is to intentionally foster peace. Leave room for consequences, and see them, not as a stick to punish, but as a helping hand to heal. To overcome bullying, we must protect the vulnerable and heal the bullies.