The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, May 21, 2000
Your Option

Sharing — a spontaneous act of love
By Taru Bahl

THE dictionary takes a narrow view of sharing. It clinically defines it as an allotment, allocation or contribution involving doling, meting or giving something to another. But sharing goes beyond the physical act of extending a helping hand. At a deeper level, it is an intimate gesture which connects two people. The physical act of parting with something cannot be an exercise in isolation. It has to be tinged with the emotion of empathy.

A child forcing a piece of chocolate down a friend’s throat, and a child lovingly extending a piece of it to another are both acts of sharing. However, the first act has all the elements of bullying while the second helps the receiver thaw and forge an instant bond. A husband who stubbornly refuses to share his feelings, observations and professional upheavals because he is convinced that his wife ‘doesn’t have it in her to understand or contribute’, is depriving the marital relationship of intimacy. A great guru who teaches without voluntarily sharing the lessons and experiences of his life may be doing his job and earning his bread but is ‘disconnected’ with his audience. On the other hand, a teacher who gives all of himself without succumbing to feelings of insecurity, competition and fear impacts the classroom far more strongly, even though technically he may not be the best.

  When we teach children to share, it is not just about sharing sweets and toys but about learning to be more considerate, generous, sensitive, compassionate, caring and loving. The act of sharing is not a theoretical concept. It has to thrive in an atmosphere where one’s acts of sharing are the result of instinct and impulse and are not acquired, forced or manipulated. When a retiring CEO spends time with his successor, filling him in on gaps, advising him on pitfalls, sharing company strategies and giving him crucial information on staff and clients, he is demonstrating true leadership qualities. Most bosses and colleagues are unable to share because they are insecure. They resent another’s success and achievement and treat these it as a direct threat to their own levels of competence. They also feel that if they are in a similar situation, others would withhold information, quietly letting them botch up their professional growth. In a world which is being increasingly perceived as unfair and where survival is such an issue, the very idea of sharing is threatening. The purpose of an HR department today is to throw open channels of communication and ensure that there is sharing of information, without which the organisation cannot grow, change, compete and turn into a winner. In fact, the much-touted concept of knowledge management cannot take shape unless there is mass sharing at all levels.

For many, leadership implies solitary growth and performance of functions. In military warfare, a good leader is not just one who leads from the front, taking credit when things go right, shifting blame when they don’t. He evokes and draws leadership from the group, working as a senior partner with other members to achieve the task.

The ways in which this sharing takes place are rich and varied. When we share concerns with our family and colleagues, our worries and tensions get halved and we end up involving them as partners in progress. Companies take shareholders into confidence at annual general meetings where information about profits and losses and investment decisions is given. They are confident that a direct and honest approach strengthens relationships and the loyalty factor while the absence of such an approach leads to secrecy and ambiguity.

Sharing means transparency, honesty and faith. When a husband shares his office concerns with his wife or when a mother shares her worries about her dwindling personal finances with her teenaged son or when a beloved shares his personal anxieties with his fiance they are all taking important person in their lives into the depths of their intimate thought processes. These are not acts of weakness. Many of us prefer to suffer alone thinking that we will cause others anguish, worry and tension if we share our troubles with them. We fear being regarded as wimps who are incapable of sorting things out on their own. If we share facts in the right manner, by being objective or emotional, depending on the situation, there is no reason why sharing would not lead to greater understanding.

A healthy attitude towards sharing encourages cooperation and leads to compassion and kindness which have to be developed during the childhood years. Children should learn to share willingly. Forced sharing can lead to resentment. A toddler, for instance, only understands one word — mine. He is possessive about his toys, food, mother, home, TV and car. He has a tunnel vision. He doesn’t politely ask, he just grabs, blackmails and throws tantrums to have his way because he is egocentric by nature. He sees things solely from his point of view. Would we expect a mature adult to behave in the same manner? A child who does not learn to share will grow up to be an aggressive, selfish and greedy adult who finds it difficult to part with anything that is his. Between the ages of two and five, children begin to learn that everything does not belong to them. They may still not be too happy and willing to share but gradually they learn to cooperate and give. It takes time for a person to accept sharing and social justice as a part of life but once this is done, he gets immense pleasure by using these concepts to make others happy.

Sharing is a virtue that instantly impacts every situation and person. It implies recognising another’s needs and wants. The next stage involves a change in mindset where one is willing to do something. By stretching onself, going that extra mile and reaching out, one makes a positive contribution. Sharing loses its purity if it is restricted to things which are redundant to us. There are times when we make a conscious decision to share in the hope that the favour will be returned. By converting sharing into a clinical quid pro quo, one taints this sentiment.

Sharing also means compromising. When a three-year-old cries and insists on having a toy which belongs to a 12-year-old, the older kid may face a dilemma trying to figure out whether or not to ‘sacrifice’ his toy. He may decide to give in because of pressure from elders or out of pity for the crying child. Either way, he compromises with his own attachment to the toy by deciding to part with it. This small lesson prepares him for tougher tests in life where he has to share information, property, cash or affection for a loved one for the sake of harmony, friendship and happiness.

If people were rigid about sharing there would have been no self-help books detailing lessons learnt from the personal experience of mountaineers, racers, industrialists, politicians and doctors. There would be no autobiographies and no first person accounts. We wouldn’t get insights into great minds. Whether it is simple things like raising children, running homes, managing finances, saving marriages, maintaining good bodies and souls or efficiently executing responsibilities at the work place, one is constantly learning from others’ experiences and this cannot happen unless we are willing to share.

In an individual’s journey towards spiritual growth there is a natural process which allows him to let go, tell all, share uninhibitedly and go out of the way to reach out. Sharing for him is an enjoyable and pleasurable activity. More than taking, demanding and grabbing all the time, he starts thinking of ways and means of giving, sharing and being charitable. Just the way a mother is spontaneous in her love for children and gives without expecting anything in return --- not even praise for her goodness and generosity --- we too have to view sharing as a natural stage of progression in our loving relationships.