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I was listening to a speaker the other day, and he used an interesting analogy that I found helpful. He compared people to candles. Each of us is going through our lives trying to shine as much light as possible. Light was a metaphor for what was considered “good.”

The Wick

Some of us see ourselves as the wick. In other words, we have a limited amount of light to spend. If we light our wick on fire (perhaps to help light the way for others), it depletes us. If we light our candle for too long, we will burn out. It’s a win-lose situation. The more we give, the less we have for ourselves.

The Flame

Others of us see ourselves as the flame. The flame keeps burning, as long as the necessary ingredients (e.g., oxygen) are in place. If we light our wick on fire and light someone else’s candle, there is actually more light than before. It’s a win-win situation. The more we give, the better off everyone (including us) is.

Balance

I think there are merits to both points of view. There are benefits to viewing ourselves as the flame. In most situations, spending our energy to help others is a great investment. Most situations can be worked out so they are a win-win, good for both parties. Spending energy on the front end to help others light their own candle makes the world a better place.

At the same time, there are merits of viewing ourselves as the wick. Like a candle with a wick, we don’t have unlimited resources and energy. If we give, give, and give, without any acknowledgement about our limits, we will burn out. So there’s a balance here. Focus your energy on lighting the candles of others, but also make sure you take care of your own candle.

Discussion: Which perspective do you connect with the most? Do you see yourself more as the wick or more as the flame? How could you integrate both perspectives in your life, work, and relationships?

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