II. The Ego and False Autonomy, P 6
6 Only those who have a real and lasting sense of abundance can be truly charitable. This is obvious when you consider what is involved. To the ego, to give anything implies that you will have to do without it. When you associate giving with sacrifice, you give only because you believe that you are somehow getting something better, and can therefore do without the thing you give. “Giving to get” is an inescapable law of the ego, which always evaluates itself in relation to other egos. It is therefore continually preoccupied with the belief in scarcity that gave rise to it. Its whole perception of other egos as real is only an attempt to convince itself that it is real. “Self-esteem” in ego terms means nothing more than that the ego has deluded itself into accepting its reality, and is therefore temporarily less predatory. This “self-esteem” is always vulnerable to stress, a term which refers to any perceived threat to the ego’s existence.
“Giving to get” is an inescapable law of the ego. Looking at this idea I first thought of giving money or some valuable object. Do I always give to get? I give money to my children, to charities and to other people who need it. What do I get out of it? If it is my ego that is giving, I get to present a generous ego to the public eye. Maybe I am using my “gift” to influence the receiver.
In giving, perhaps I get to feel like I am now less guilty than before having made up for my bad acts with good works. I have appeased God. This is ego reasoning, and to the ego any one of these results would be worth a certain amount of money depending on the level of guilt it was feeling at the moment.
Do I ever give for the pure joy of giving? Do I ever give because it is my nature to give? I don’t know because giving is so mixed up with my ego motives that I can’t tell. Trying to purify my motives in giving would be going at it backwards and wouldn’t work. I can only continue to do the work of undoing. When the ego is undone the issue of giving to get will no longer be an issue.
I see that it is not just money and other material possessions that are used in the egos “giving to get” game. It gives compliments to get compliments. It gives kind acts to look kinder than other egos and so look better than others. It works harder at the job to increase its value to the company in the hopes of standing out from the other egos and thus insuring employment.
This giving to get mentality shows up in every special relationship, which is every relationship until it is given to the Holy Spirit for purification. Relationships are reciprocal in every way. The ego dresses to attract, that is, to stand out from other egos. It is kind and loving, not for the joy of it, but in the hopes the other will be kind and loving. It gives whatever it has to the other in the hopes of getting something it thinks it needs in return. Everything the ego gives is in the hopes of getting a return and it hopes that return is greater than the outlay.
The entire concept of giving to get is always born of guilt and so guilt underlies every action. It wants to make the other feel guilty through it’s giving in the hopes that one will then reciprocate in some way. Or the ego gives because it is trying to fool everyone, especially God, into believing it is not guilty. The ego is like a hamster on a wheel, running, running, running, and never getting anywhere.
The ego works very hard on its self esteem issues so it will seem stronger and better than others, thus proving it is better than those others. The ego will never get anywhere in its race to success because the whole race is a farce. Everything it does is an attempt to prove its existence through proving the existence of other egos, and since egos do not exist it is doomed to failure.
Instead of letting go of the insane idea that ego is real, I try to make my ego look better than your ego. Even as I write this my ego hopes you will be impressed with my writing and will think of me as “special” because of it. It uses even my desire to wake up and my desire to love God as a way to feed its need to be absolved of guilt. Being the ego it thinks that to be guiltless it must look less guilty than others.
My ego thinks like this: It gives its time and effort freely and gets nothing in return. “Look at me, God. I am doing Your work and now You have to love me. See, how others are impressed with me? See how they look to me for answers? Surely You recognize my value now, God. I am Your special teacher, I sacrifice more than anyone for you. Surely You will forgive me for my sins and not punish me for leaving You.” And of course, whom do I look better than? All those other egos, and since they exist I must exist.
It is all very convoluted and very depressing and impossible to fix. As Jesus said, giving to get is an inescapable law of the ego. I cannot fix the ego, repair it, shore it up and make it better. I can only undo it. The ego is the idea of guilt, fear and lack, and therefore can only be those things no matter how hard I try to make it look different. I want to be generous and loving without an agenda. I want this because under the ego façade, it is my nature to be so. True love, true generosity, and true giving is what I am and that is what will bring me joy.
As I accept the Holy Spirit’s healing of my mind and finally give up on the idea of a better ego, I will let that impossible idea go. Just beneath my belief in the ego is my Self, which is not a belief at all and so cannot be lost or damaged by my silly thoughts. Just beneath the belief in the idea of an ego is joy and peace and love, and without ego, I will know what it means to give just for the joy of giving.