It’s impossible to truly support someone who doesn’t want your help.
And it’s impossible to be truly supported without first letting yourself fall into that support.
That’s the funny thing about support. I know I love to support others – the privilege I feel that someone does trust me enough to “fall into” that support. That falling is about reaching out, asking, being vulnerable. I’ve also had the great fortune to receive outstanding support myself. Which for a long time left me in a dilemma, and one that in many ways is its own cliche:
How could I ever repay you?
I wonder sometimes if our pre-capitalism ancestors ever asked this question. And perhaps capitalism does have a part to play here. But the feeling of reciprocity that is generated when someone supports us, I believe, goes much deeper than that.
And I think we, and definitely I, got lost along the way with this reciprocity.
We are a social species but are living in a world which celebrates the individual – and almost fetishises “independence”. If, rather than living within the cobweb of an interconnected community, we focus on each individual transaction in isolation then yes, the idea of “returning the favour” can become very problematic.
Don’t get me wrong – I love my independence but just this weekend I realised that for the first time in my life I have truly integrated into my geographically local community.
It’s an amazing feeling.
I was coming out of the sea on a gloriously sunny day, seeing a crowd gathered on the sands, chatting, eating, sharing and having a wonderful time: and they were all there because I’d invited them and they had been moved to come. I feel incredibly fortunate to have a very dispersed network of “soul mates” – and modern technologies facilitate this although I’m still a paper-and-pen type of person too – but being part of my local community is phenomenal. I’m learning so much from people I might not otherwise ever have crossed paths with – and going with the flow of what life offers up. So let me rephrase: I love my independence in the context of being part of a community.
So if we see reciprocity not as “paying back” directly to the person who supported us but instead as being offered to a community a powerful shift takes place. Personally, the mental shift of accepting that “repaying” support will most take the form of me supporting someone completely unrelated to the person who gave me the support in the first place (and usually in an entirely different context) has been transformational. By returning to the idea that I am intrinsically interconnected with every other life on the planet a sense of ease has appeared for me. Which in itself is invaluable.
Take it a step further: what if we ditch the idea of “repayment” (and its flip side: debt) and accept support for what it is: an amazing social transaction which can deepen and strengthen bonds in ways we’re only just beginning to comprehend, let alone measure.
Support is an inherently life-filled transaction – it cannot exist in isolation by its very nature. And perhaps if we account for all the support we give and receive in each day, hour and breath we’ll see that as long as we keep the flow going, there is no debt, no need for any sense of guilt or imbalance.
Just an appreciation of the wonder of living in community with our fellow humans and the rest of the planet.
Yesterday I had the great fortune to be part of the flag ceremony at Allanton Peace Sanctuary – to give conscious attention to every nation on the planet, to be with others, to meditate on peace: I found it very moving. If you get the opportunity to attend such a ceremony, I really recommend it.