Sometimes in life we make a bad bargain.
At the time, it doesn’t seem so bad.
In fact, it might be a good bargain for that particular moment.
But then… things evolve.
The bargain no longer works for us.
But we may not realize it.
We may just live in quiet pain.
Sometimes nonprofit work can be like this.
It starts out hopeful and filled with promise. Then things unfold differently than we’d anticipated. We try to deal. We tell ourselves things will get better. If they don’t, we tell ourselves it’s our fault.
This happens, particularly, with fundraisers.
Because too often they are put into a corner and told to “go raise money.” They are isolated, and looked down upon, because they’re perceived as dealing in “filthy lucre.” Money is still a taboo subject in our culture, and fundraisers are seen as “money grubbers.” No one wants to be touched by them, and this can be isolating and soul crushing.
Of course, the problem doesn’t confine itself to just fundraising.
May nonprofits have cultures more aptly named “starvation cycle” than “culture of philanthropy.” There’s pressure to do more with less. And to work without any thought of personal reward. People walk around proudly wearing hair shirts, and castigating those who won’t embrace a vow of poverty. There’s little love and plenty of flagellation.
And then there are those organizations that talk a good game.
But they don’t walk that talk internally. Their external branding is all about helping, healing, and empowering, but their policies towards their own employees are more negligent or, even, ignoble.
We’re complicit in this negligence.
We know things are hard, but we don’t take time to figure out why. Instead, we blame ourselves. Or others. And blaming becomes our new way of life. Our new bargain.
I’m not good enough.
I’m not smart enough.
I’m not assertive enough.
I’m not experienced enough.
S/he is too demanding.
S/he is too critical.
S/he is putting on blinders.
S/he lacks relevant skills.
They don’t respect me.
They’re expectations are unreasonable.
They refuse to accept responsibility.
The list of accusations and self-accusations goes on.
And our pain grows.
The ‘blame game’ is bad for the soul.
Tara Mohr, author of Playing Big, grabbed my attention recently with her article: pain of the soul. It’s her revelation that with pain, there is often some soul starvation, violation or denial at the root of the pain. She finds the amount of pain she experiences is directly proportional to the amount she’s out of alignment with her soul. Here are excerpts [highlights are mine] that speak to how to let your personal pain lead you towards the light:
Our souls long for freedom, and oppression pains our souls.
Our souls are meant for love, and animosity and hatred pains our souls.
Our souls are meant to be treated with reverence and care, and callousness pains our souls.
When our soul doesn’t get what it needs, we feel pain.
If we let it, our pain can always teach us about the light, our own inner light. Pain is always a little arrow pointing you to some unmet need of your soul.
Pain can always lead you there, if you follow it to that discovery.
In my own life,
the pain of isolation tells me about the connection my soul is meant for
the pain of exhaustion and overwork tells me about the vitality and balance my soul is meant for
the pain of experiences of harassment, objectification, and abuse tell me about the free and joyful sensuality my soul is meant for
And what the soul needs, the soul is. The soul needs love and is the energy of love. The soul needs creativity and is the force of creativity. The soul needs compassion and is the spirit of compassion. So your pain not only tells you what your soul needs, it tells you what your soul is. And that tells you about what the holiest part of you is.
So ask yourself what part of your soul may be hurting. What part may you be denying? What need may you be discounting?
Where may you be misaligned?
Take some time to check in with yourself.
How are you doing?
- Does going to work every day fill you with joy?
- Do you delight at the thought of all you’re accomplishing?
- Do you take the time to consider the good you’re doing?
Sometimes just small things can have a big impact in moving you towards greater alignment.
Here’s a place to begin: Are you grateful?
What, specifically, are you grateful for?
Do you take the time to journal your gratitude?
It’s a simple thing, yet research shows keeping a daily gratitude journal – spending just 5 minutes/day – can improve your health and well-being so much it’s the equivalent of doubling your income!
Even if it sounds silly to you, consider giving it a try. Don’t see yourself doing this? There are many other ways to cultivate gratitude. Just thanking someone mentally can do the trick. Or writing a thank you letter — even one to yourself! Find a gratitude practice that works for you.
Grateful people live longer and prosper.
Grateful people don’t suffer pain. They reframe it, and then move forward.
If you’re suffering, try to figure out why.
Where is the misalignment between my life and the longings of my soul?
Where is the misalignment between our society and the needs of its members’ souls?
What can I do – small things or big things – to bring about more alignment between life and soul?
— Tara Mohr
If the list of things you’re grateful for is shorter than you would like, determine what would make you grateful.
More time off? More flexibility? More/less responsibility? More inside/outside the office time? More recognition? A cause that better aligns with your passions?
Endeavor to find that thing that makes your heart and soul sing.
What can you do to get it?
All comments are warmly appreciated. I am grateful for your readership, and for sharing.
THANKS FOR THIS MESSAGE OF WARMNESS! I TRY TO BE THE BEST SOUL I CAN BE AND YES, SOMETIMES I FALL SHORT, GET TIRED, MAYBE A BIT LAZY ON CERTAIN PLANES – YOU BROUGHT ME BACK TO MY REALITY, MY PURPOSE . REGARDS!
LOVE THIS POST!! Sharing it all over. Thanks Claire!
Amazing article and I read it at the right time in my journey. Thank you.
Your writing is on point, insightful, inspiring, energizing and a pleasure to read.
Thank you, Claire, for this tender, heartful and vulnerable piece. I do so agree with Tara that pain is an arrow pointing to an unmet need of the soul. I also agree that daily practices of gratitude, mindfulness, writing are each very soul nourishing and thus strong antidotes to soul pain. It is good for me to read your words, Claire, in the exhaustion of Friday night as I am more willing to apply them to myself. To reflect and feel their truth.
I admit that while I have saved each of your emails I have read only a few of them. This piece calls me to notice that putting in much time and effort, offering out your hard earned knowledge, into a void from which you get mostly silence must at times be hard to keep going. We all need feedback to know we are making a difference. I attended one of your webinars, Claire, it was your knowledge and skillful presentation that led me to sign up for Clairification School. Plus I like the name. Clearly you have talent, you have gifts you readily share, you have heart and determination. Thank you for your work!
Thank you so much Nadeane, and everyone else, for your very kind words. You have truly made my day. My week! I appreciate so much that you’ve welcomed me into your lives. And I’m especially thankful to those of you who’ve chosen to enroll in Clairification School in support of the light I’m trying to shine on what it means to work, and successfully serve, in the social benefit sector. Your support means the world. In gratitude for all you do, and for all you will do. — Claire