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“(genuine) Love is always bestowed as a gift –freely, willingly and without expectation. We don’t love to be loved, we love to love.” - Leo Buscaglia
“I am not in this world to live up to your expectations, and you are not in it to live up to mine.” - Bruce Lee
Recently I found myself harboring a resentment that stemmed from my photography. As I always have a camera close-by, I often photograph folks at events that are happening. When I know I have taken a good shot of someone, I make it a point of getting their email and sending them the photograph.
Now, bear in mind that I spend an average of two hours a day just editing photographs – on top of a couple of hours writing and an hour answering emails from folks. I have gotten a lot faster at editing photos, but it still takes from three to five minutes per photograph to clean them up. This might not sound like much, but when I shoot 500 photos of an event as a kindness – photos that I am not going to use for the articles, the extra time it takes is often work I am doing at 2 in the morning. As part of the editing process, I have always put my signature on the bottom of photos, figuring if nothing else maybe a paying gig would come along now and then. The signature is always subtle – in fact you have to be looking for it to see it.
Well, I see these same photos show up on people’s Facebook profiles and web pages – and of course I hope that people find good use for the photos I take. But numerous times recently I have seen people crop my signature off of the photograph. This is not some happenstance of editing – they have gone out of their way to delete it. It came to a head with me a few weeks back when a close friend used one as a Facebook profile photo – my signature clearly omitted.
My first instincts are self-pity. After all my work and my obvious generosity, why would a friend delete any acknowledgement of me and my kindness? Of course the next thing is thoughts that I should call them and express my disappointment, and in no time I am having conversations in my head about how these phone calls are going to go. It takes me a bit, but I catch myself and reel it back in. Why am I upset, and why am I having conversations in my head with people that are not present?
Of course, spelling it out brings the answer to light. I am not really giving of myself – I am pretending to give while secretly holding an expectation of return for my charity. It is not charity at all – it is promotion, yet I am trying to masquerade promotion as charity. As a remedy, I am not going to quit sending people photos of themselves. I have just quit putting my signature on them.
Conditional giving always backfires, but it is so easy to slip into it. What self-promotion are we trying to disguise as service today? A bit of self-honesty ahead of time may just save us the need to have imaginary conversations later. Or worse.
Today, may I be real.
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