Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit Blenheim Palace, which is the ancestral home of Winston Churchill. His ancestors were granted the estate when, in 1704, John Churchill conquered the French in a place called Blindheim. That was anglicized to Blenheim. The whole estate is beautiful, but the most moving place to me was the exhibit on Winston Churchill’s life.
I played a game in my mind, which was to answer this question: What public figure in the twentieth century, which, if you remove them from history, would have left the largest gaping hole? My strongest argument is for Winston Churchill. There could be others, but without him this world might look very different. It’s amazing that he came along after a string of failures in his life—military and political defeats—and then his moment came. This man of remarkable courage did what was his to do and rallied a nation. He was an unusual man, certainly, and by worldly standards an imperfect one. And yet he came along and did his job.
I played a similar game relative to the nineteenth century. Certainly, here in the United States the person most pivotal to American history would have to be Abraham Lincoln. As I read the history, it seems clear to me that there came a point when he was almost totally alone. Virtually no one was supporting him—not his cabinet, not his family, not his generals. Under the crushing weight of what was happening in this country, he stood there.
Abraham Lincoln was thought of as having melancholia, an archaic word for depression. Who wouldn’t have suffered from something like that, carrying the weight that he was carrying, and persevering through great adversity? And if you could take that one man out of the history of the United States, would we have a country anything like what we have today?
I’m proud to be in a country that looks to a man and puts him on a pedestal, and then, when we think about him more deeply, we find that he was that man we credited him with being, whatever imperfections there were in his life. He was honest and he stood up for righteousness when few else would.
Likewise, we can go to the eighteenth century here in America and find the man we look to as the father of the country, George Washington, another imperfect man. And yet, if he wasn’t a part of our history, what would have happened? Without support from the Continental Congress, in the middle of a bleak winter when the colonial troops at Valley Forge didn’t have enough to eat, and not enough clothing to outfit them, he walked from campfire to campfire and kept that army together. Without him at Valley Forge, we likely would not have a country. And without him refusing to be king, we might not have inherited the form of democratic government that is so precious to this country.
These three men speak to me of what is potential for each of us. They are people who gave their unique gift to the world. They were very much on the public scene. I qualified my little mental quiz that way, limiting it to public figures. Undoubtedly there were people who were less public but who, nonetheless, had an impact on culture and on history, even though they will remain unknown as far as the great mass of humanity is concerned.
How about each one of us, and the gift that we have to give to advance the destiny of the world in which we live? It might be a large world—the world, or a country. It might be a place or a community such as Sunrise Ranch, where I live. It might be a family, an organization, or simply a network of friends. In whatever field within which we serve, what we do reverberates in a larger field. For instance, what we do at Sunrise Ranch reverberates around the world for people who come here, and for people who participate in our services online. We affect people who affect other people, and so the pebbles we drop into the pond of life create ripples that reach the whole world.
We each have a gift to give, and we have an impact to bring to the world that is often underestimated, or not even seen by us or others. And then there is often a lack of appreciation for what would unfold if that gift was given. Clearly, a person who doesn’t give their gift doesn’t get to find out what would occur if they did.
What happens to a person when they have the urge to give their gift to the world, but they don’t act on that urge? If it was a physical gift, they might be carrying it around with them. They might bring it to a person’s house, but instead of giving it away they might bring it back home. And then perhaps there is another gift to give to someone else. They might have it all wrapped up under their arms; the opportunity comes to give the gift, and they don’t give it. Now there are two gifts they are carrying around. And so it goes in my fictitious allegory until the person is weighed down by a stack of ungiven gifts.
I believe that this is what happens to so many of us. We are burdened by ungiven gifts. We feel the weight of carrying them around inside us. Perhaps we then attribute the burden we feel to all kinds of things external to ourselves: So-and-so wasn’t nice to me. They don’t deserve the gift. I don’t have enough money. Not enough friends. Not the right partner. Not the right job. I need to hoard what I have.
I’m here to say it’s not true. The largest burdens that we carry are not what other people do to us. The largest burdens are our ungiven gifts, and they weigh us down. Each of us are naturally buoyant and joyful people. And yet, when we are burdened by an ungiven gift, it doesn’t feel that way. Not until we respond to the urge within us are we set free.
Each of us has a gift of love to give, and if we don’t give it, we feel the gravity of it, weighing on our heart. And if we give it, we are set free.
We have a gift of truth to bring—our own truth, being ourselves, revealing more of the reality of who we are through our expression and the embodiment of ourselves every day. We each have more truth to show and more truth to give. As we give the gift of our truth to another person, they tend to show their truth. Being truthful ourselves reveals the truth of the world in which you live. We could curse the world for not being truthful, but how are we showing up? Are we giving our gift of truth to the world?
Life is always bringing us opportunities. When we show up fully, we’re showing up for life, and we’re showing up for the life that’s uniquely ours. At the same time, we’re showing up for the life of the world in which we live. And that world—our world—will die without us showing up and embracing our life. And if we do embrace our own life, at the same time, we are embracing the life of the world in which we live. When I show up for Sunrise Ranch, I’m showing up for myself, for my own life, and I’m giving life to my community. When I show up for the world in which I live, I am claiming my own life as mine, and at the same time, I’m giving life to the world in which I live.
There is a pattern of male psychology that is relevant to this truth. It is relevant to us as men, and yet shared by women also. Women are witness to this in men and can also participate in it themselves. It’s a pattern of two bad choices.
The first bad choice is to be a tyrant. That choice is obvious enough in our world. The paradigm of being a tyrant is one of imposing a false, unnatural pattern of control on other people. It’s bossing other people around, manipulating their lives, threatening them and imprisoning them. And of course, the soul of a man who does that to other people is in prison, because we can’t do something like that to another person without doing it to ourselves. So if we are a tyrant to other people, we are being a tyrant to ourselves. Over the last few decades, society has had a good hard look at the awfulness of men who were tyrants. And yet it continues. So that is one bad choice.
A man seeing other men who are tyrants can make the second bad choice. Not wanting to be a tyrant himself, he withdraws. Or he might think, If there are male tyrants around I’d better keep my head down, and not cause any trouble. And for either reason, a man can decide to be a weakling—someone with little impact in the world, a man who doesn’t give his gift and who is not empowered.
These are two bad choices for a man: to become a tyrant or a weakling. So, what to do? There is an emerging paradigm for a man who gives his unique gift. In so doing, he claims his own life. He shows up in his strength but without imposition, without manipulation, without cruelty, but with spiritual centeredness so that his strength is held in his presence, and not imposed. His strength is one that allows a higher power to appear through himself. It is a strength that calls upon the power of love to be in the world because he is there.
The same is true of a woman who gives her gift. She uses her strength that way. She shows up in her spiritual centering and brings the power of the Divine into the world, with faith that that presence and that power will do what it needs to do through her, a woman who has the courage to show up fully and be herself.
When we set ourselves free to be ourselves, we free other people. It’s funny how that works. When I am free, I’m inviting you to be free. I’m not imposing freedom—I don’t know how I would do that; it’s a contradiction in terms. But in being free myself, I’m giving the gift of freedom. In showing up in love and power, I’m giving the gift of love and the gift of power, and we share it together.
Spiritual centering implies composure—a composed presence and a composed strength. Spiritual centering brings a power that isn’t lashing out all over the place. It is a power that is easily held within the body of auric substance naturally carried by a human being. The way we carry that power becomes easier and easier as we do it together, as we invoke that power, and as we each have the courage to give our gift.
Giving your gift is not about the position you hold in an organization or in the social structure. It’s not about what anyone else says your gift is or how you ought to give it. It only requires having such faith in your unique gift, and such courage, that you couldn’t do anything else but give it, and give it and give it and give it, until it flows out from you like water.
Your gift is the most pivotal factor for your world. My gift is for mine. Without that gift, there is a gaping hole in the unfoldment of our life path, and the great burden of an ungiven gift.
Let us give our gifts.