Don't let your life be ruined by begrudgery

 

THAT'S MEN:Get involved and have a wholehearted 2012, writes PADRAIG O'MORAIN

CHARLES IS a begrudger. That’s the closest I can come to describing his quality of holding back from doing anything in a wholehearted way.

If you approach him for help at work, he will look at you warily as if suspecting that you may be about to take a grenade out of your pocket, remove the pin, leave it on his desk and walk away whistling.

When you make your fairly reasonable request for him to do something that he is paid to do, he may outline the various obstacles that stand in the way – shortage of time, prior commitments, the ineptitude of colleagues – before complying with your request.

Even if he does what you ask straight away and without preamble, he will most likely sigh, frown and put you under a compliment.

Notice that Charles (not his real name) will generally do whatever you ask him to do so long as it’s his job to do it, but he will make you feel bad about asking.

It’s the same story at home. He will collect the kids from their activities and he will walk the dog, but he will do so with a sigh just so nobody runs away with the idea that he actually enjoys doing this sort of thing.

If you arranged for him to win the lottery, you suspect he would begrudge the effort of bringing the cheque to the bank, not to mention begrudging the bank the interest it makes from loaning out his million on the interbank market overnight.

When he dies, visitors to his grave will cock an ear, wondering if they will catch a great sigh emanating from the bowels of the earth.

I suspect the roots of begrudgery lie far back in childhood, perhaps even as far back as babyhood. As usual, it is all mother’s fault.

According to one theory which fits Charles and his ilk to a tee, babies form an opinion that they have two mothers – a good mother and a bad mother.

The good mother gives them milk or cuddles them when they cry. The bad mother fails to respond quickly enough or even at all.

A point comes, however, when the baby comes to the dreadful realisation that there is, in fact, only one mother.

When this realisation has been digested, baby may become a cheerful sort who believes that everyone is good at heart after all, or he takes a darker view: that people who appear to be good are ready to do you a bad turn at the drop of a hat.

In this second scenario, baby may become a begrudger: here is mother with a big smile and a bottle of warm milk but when you fall asleep because of said milk, there is every chance she will go off and leave you stuck there in your cot until it suits her to return.

No wonder baby has to be coaxed to take milk from this unsatisfactory mother. No wonder he will give her a tough time when she visits new indignities on him, such as eating from a spoon and potty training.

And no wonder this particular baby, Charles, goes through life treating colleagues and family to begrudgery.

He is his own worst enemy. Others find ways to manouevre around him but he denies himself the pleasure of entering wholeheartedly into anything.

That’s the real problem with the practice of begrudgery: the begrudger never quite gets the full value out of life.

He does not want to give life the satisfaction. Heaven forbid that life might get the impression Charles actually enjoyed himself.

And so the begrudger remains in the prison of forever holding back, of refusing to give in, of never sitting before the full blazing fire of life.

If you recognise yourself in any of this (and I recognise myself in some of it), I can only wish you a wholehearted 2012. Whether it works out that way is up to you (and me).

Padraig O’Morain (pomorain@ireland.com) is accredited as a counsellor by the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy.

His book, Light Mind – Mindfulness for Daily Living– is published by Veritas. His mindfulness newsletter is free by email.