It occurred to me that protecting a person in stress should really be one's second choice when coming to the aid of another. We could define protection, in this case, as any action resulting from that feeling inside that wants to say "Awww." It's that sympathetic reaching out that's present when the mother, rocking gently, enfolds her distressed child.

By the way, what we're trying to deal with here is understanding our own needs, and thereby gain understanding of others. If you're one of that multitude of people who has one day turned around to realize that, indeed, the old saw about counting your true friends on one hand was too painfully true, you my have figured out that the only way to foster that true friendship (love) is with love itself. Remember the Beatles? 'And in the end, the Love you take is equal to the Love you make.' Ya gotta start giving' it away.

When considering giving things away, we almost always take a moment to assess the amount of our sacrifice. So when the panhandler asks for two dollars instead of a quarter, it makes one stop and think. My contention is that if you're trying to have more meaning/love/friendship in your life, you should be looking for the 'first choice' ways of getting on with it. Keep in mind that Real sacrifices (when it really starts to get hard) are difficult to make.

OK. What follows is the question, "What's the first choice then? How can I tell which of two actions is the 'higher choice'? By how much commitment is inherently (not through conjecture) contained in your action. Here's the flash of understanding that prompted this article. There's a little older lady that I regularly meet at a gathering. Her loneliness and need of love is very apparent. She's also a nice person: smiles, is polite, nicely dressed. My heart softens every time I see her, and I try always to find something about her that I can compliment-- what a pretty flower, how nice she looks. We almost always hug and I notice that I'm always giving the hug in the Protection mode. I can't remember hugging her while in the needing/asking/receiving mode; although I routinely find myself there with others. Let's get back to giving it away.

If you're giving it away, you are also more concerned with what would be best for the object of your gift. Don't get off on the tangent which says that you can't make that kind of judgement about others. You're not judging the other person's needs. Based an your sure feeling that they need help, you're judging which of the tools you have to work with will be most beneficial; to ANY person who has touched your heart by showing their vulnerability.

Well, which is best of our two subjects, Protection or Strength? Put yourself in the receiver's place and in a different setting. Say there's a bully on the block and your son complains of him. How long do you wait at the front door to protect your son when he runs home from the bully? Or how many weeks will you take off work to walk around behind the boy in order to keep the bully at bay? Only until you realize that your son would do lots better with boxing lessons. You see, protection supplies safety, not strength.

The moment you conclude that your son could handle the other kid if he had the confidence to stand up to him, you concentrate your efforts more on strengthening your son than protecting him.

Back to my sweet friend. From now on I'll look harder for ways to build her strength while I'm supplying that protection. "You look so strong today!" Corny? Yes, a bit, but it's a start. Letting prideful, self-consciousness ('What will people think!") foil your attempts at loving others seems to me very foolish. That's why I'm trying so hard to stop doing it. You know what I mean?

All that "Blockage" is just the awareness of some impending risk. If loving means giving, commitment and surrender (yes, even surrender), then it's obvious that there's some risk involved. By opening up to another in such a way, we make ourselves vulnerable to ridicule, rejection, failure, even attack. I steer pretty clear of those kinds of risky situations whenever possible. Trouble is, it's getting harder to avoid them. Doing the right thing is always difficult. There are too many people (us too) that willingly condone our not doing the right thing. You can bet they know that uncomfortable feeling that comes with risk.

But look how easily that risky feeling is overcome when you focus on the good/love you're sending out. It becomes laughable in my case. See if you can follow this. I want to do the best for my lady-friend. I see that she really soaks up the protection. I also know that her needy condition is just an expression of feeling weak; some might say low self-esteem. Most important, I realize that my protective love offering is good, but not strengthening. It would help her far more if I could substitute strength for some of the protection I'm giving. Here's the laughable part. When I do let my small feeling of "it's too corny," stop me from getting into the strength-giving mode, and saying, "You look strong today"--instead of "nice."

You may be saying, "Is that all he had to say?" I know it may feel like "so what", but we're not talking about the insignificant change of the word nice to strong in a compliment. We're taIking about finding ways to finally be open to others' love; being able to unselfishly give to others (in other words, love others); which is learning to surrender/sacrifice (not just what comes easy). We're talking about understanding ourselves, and all the devious little ways we let our selfishness get in the way of true friendship. And finally, we're talking about facing up to the true meaning of commitment; that it's very difficult to make and keep a solid commitment. Is that worth talking about? Well, if you knew that, why'd you let me go on so long? Give me strength.

I guess what this article is really about is trying to overcome our inadequacies: those things about us we wish were better--but only by our own honest standards. I hope the piece shows that I'm convinced that giving--sending out--is what makes the world go around. All I really said was that strength is better to give than protection.

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