After recently volunteering to work as a mentor for children coming from challenging life situations (which involved a comprehensive interview process to determine a good match between the mentor and child), it was relayed to me that many previous mentors were not willing to work with kids who had poor manners or were not as polite as it was thought they should be.
Now this really struck me as being not only an odd response, but a position that seemed to not get the whole point of being a role model to these kids who many times have been physically, emotionally, and even sexually abused and come from impoverished neighbourhoods with very little familial support or guidance. Although everyone has a right to choose what they are comfortable dealing with, it was as if these volunteers were attempting to place constraints on their commitment to help these children and perhaps were doing it as a ‘feel good’ exercise rather than one with the child’s best interest as the primary focus.
When I inquired about this to the coordinator who was interviewing me, it was shared with me how many of the people who volunteer are doing it to either get credit for a school program, to put on their ‘resume’ for a future job, or as I previously suspected, to feel like they are doing something ‘good’ in a way that is more like checking off a step on a ‘to-do’ list, rather than something that was truly inspired from their heart. She said many times they were ‘going through the motions’ of being a mentor rather than connecting deeply to the kids in a way that can help inspire them to appreciate all they bring to the world.
It was this conversation that sparked a deeper reflection on just how much we as a society – including myself – have lived life with conditions placed on many of our decisions and actions that result in our being imprisoned by the very forms of protection that we think are providing us a sense of security.
All the times we do things, like help a friend move house, while in the back of our minds we expect a future favor in return, or as kids we say “I’ll clean my room if I can watch my favor-ite cartoon,” it is setting us up for a life pattern that is destined to need external sources for our inner contentment. The key point here being, if our motivation to do something that should be obvious to support oneself, a family, or humanity at large is based on the need or assumption of getting something in return, we will be living in a way that guarantees a state of unsettlement and certainly not true joy for all that life can offer, unconditionally.
One of the things that contributes to this form of conditional living is how we have been told since childhood that once we get that ‘good education’ it will guarantee that ‘good job’, or that if we find a partner who loves and appreciates us, then we have found love or happiness, as if these are external things that can be attained the same way one goes to the local store to buy groceries.
The truth is that we are made of LOVE (it has always resided within us) and until we connect with THAT, via a deeper appreciation for ourselves and all we offer the world, any quest to find it via material acquisitions (whether it be a new house, car, yacht, or job, etc.) will be futile. Putting out conditions on life that one deems necessary to have in order to provide some sort of comfort or security is prevalent in relationships, where we metaphorically say things to ourselves like “I will expose my true sensitivity, love and tenderness to this person once they show this with me first,” which basically holds both of these people back from evolving in their relationship together, and instead ensures a ‘tit for tat’ game being employed where both partners are waiting for the other to make the first move towards the transparency and trust that is necessary for the foundation of any lasting and expanding relationship. This is the prison of conditions.
But why have we bought into this fallacy of being content, loving and joyful only when certain outer criteria are met, and why can’t we simply answer the call for service to others without any need for something in return? My feeling is that it has something to do with a disconnection from our inner selves and a fear of either being rejected or not accepted by others. For how can we be affected by someone rejecting us or not accepting and appreciating how amazing we are if at some level we have not done those things to ourselves first?
We have bought into a belief system that makes it look seemingly easy to have love and joy in one’s life by the simple acquisition of material goods and services. This same belief system puts constraints and conditions on relationships in an effort to make it look easy to have that same love that it touts to be easy to ‘acquire’ without first having connected to it within our inner hearts, where its depth is actually infinite. Therefore, there is a constant need to protect oneself from getting emotionally hurt, and therein lies the birthplace of the conditions that are formulated to gain the security needed. It’s ‘sold’ as an easy path, but in fact it is one that will always result in disappointment and disillusionment, and until we can allow ourselves to be as open and honest about the games we play with conditions in life, we are sure to remain their prisoner.
Alternatively, when we let go of any conditions and expectations out of a need for things to be a certain way in order for us to feel secure, it allows a whole other world of possibilities and connections to develop naturally without constraint and we are no longer ‘boxing ourselves in’ by our conditions we place on life.
By Michael Goodhart, Aircraft Technician, B.A. Psychology, Lover of people, Nature and the philosophy of Universal Life, North Carolina, USA