Giving What You Do Not Have

Recently my morning devotional had a quote from Let Your Life Speak by Parker Palmer:

When I give something I do not possess, I give a false and dangerous gift, a gift that looks like love but is, in reality, loveless— a gift given more from my need to prove myself than from the other’s need to be cared for….

One sign that I am violating my own nature in the name of nobility is a condition called burnout. Though usually regarded as the result of trying to give too much, burnout in my experience results from trying to give what I do not possess— the ultimate in giving too little! Burnout is a state of emptiness, to be sure, but it does not result from giving all I have; it merely reveals the nothingness from which I was trying to give in the first place. [pp 48-49 – emphasis mine]

This is brilliant! 

Empty Cup © Alexei Poselenov |

I have seen this in so many marriages – including at times my own. Giving not because of her need, but to prove myself to her. When I give from my lack I create in myself emptiness, resentment, and depression.

In order to give, I must have something. I must be sure of who I am in God. I must build myself up. I must grow. If I don’t have a rich inner life, I have nothing of substance to give my wife. If I don’t have a deep relationship with God, how can I be a spiritual leader? If I’m not emotionally mature how can I be her rock?

Where do you need to grow or build yourself up? 

By The Way: The devotional I am using is Daily Office by Peter Scazzero. It is set up to do twice a day five days a week. Each time takes 5-7 minutes. I’ve been enjoying this a good deal.


Comments are back: An update on Saturday killed the ability to add comments. It’s fixed now. 

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