Your heart wants to be fully expressed. Your fear wants to avoid whatever the opposite of that full expression looks like.

Let’s look at this through the quality of Generosity, and see how this tiny distinction looks so simple, but actually leads to the bulk of suffering human beings experience in their lives.

If part of who you are for the world is Generosity, your heart wants to be the expression of Generosity. Your fear wants to avoid you being (or even looking) selfish.

The innate desire for a human being is to be seen and accepted as we are. This sounds simplistic, but time and again, in every aspect of leadership I support people in, it all comes down to this.

If you are someone with the quality of Generosity, your innate desire is to express yourself as Generosity, and be seen for and recognized as that quality. The worst experience for someone who IS Generosity, would be to be seen or experienced as selfish.

For Generosity, being seen or experienced as selfish is like a form of self-annihilation.

This label — selfishness — is the single worst thing Generosity could experience. It is a fundamental rejection of self.

Now, for someone who is Brilliance, this wouldn’t have much impact. Selfishness, to Brilliance, would be just one more way a human being could show up. But call that brilliant person stupid, and you’re going to see quite a reaction.

The heart moves us towards desire. Fear moves us away from what is scary.

Our fear works by having us arrange our lives to avoid all of those things that are scary. If being selfish is the very worst stay out or being we could find ourselves in, then our fear helps us by arranging ourselves and our lives to ensure that that state of affairs never comes to be.

So your fear is going to put less emphasis on being generous, and more emphasis on NOT being selfish.

This is where the problems start.

The first problem is that “being generous” is distinct from “not being selfish”.

For example, it is possible to give money in order to not be selfish, without any ounce of generosity imbued in the action. I’m not giving because I truly desire to. I’m giving because I feel I “should” — if I don’t, I’m selfish, and I don’t want to be that.

All of the giving in the world to avoid being selfish will not necessarily bring me into an expression of Generosity.

The second problem is that, due to the way our fear grips us, we cannot see this distinction. As soon as the “I might be selfish” button gets pushed, we become linear. We don’t have the capacity to see more broadly, or with altitude.

All we can do is act in whatever way ensures we don’t become what our fear tells us we might be.

The third problem is that, because of the first two problems, our lives become more and more about managing and avoiding what we’re afraid of, and less about expressing our deepest desire.

Rather than give generously because it fills your heart, you end up living a life where you give plenty, but do so to prove you aren’t selfish.

Your life becomes a constant managing of this fear. Unable to trust the Generosity you are, you instead continually give to push away selfishness. The more you give to manage this fear, the more it provides short-term reprieve, but also further fuels the fear. (When you take action from your fear, it reinforces the idea that your fear is real.)

You end up in careers that reward this kind of martyrdom — this self-sacrifice. And you’re good at it, because you’ve spent a lifetime practising giving and giving, regardless of your internal state. Perhaps you become a nurse, or work in a care home for the elderly. Thankless jobs are a perfect fit, and you’re rewarded and regarded for this capacity you have.

But the end result is that you are not left feeling generous.

You’re left feeling burnt out. Frustrated. Angry at the world for taking and taking and taking from you.

You’ve somehow ended up living a life where you are the avoidance of what you don’t want to be, rather than the expression of who you truly are.

This is where our work begins.

Learning to discover this truth for yourself, rather than simply understanding it intellectually.

And then, from there, slowly walking back to your heart, in the face of your fear.