by Wendy Keller, occasional martyr
All our life, we’re told to give. You have to share your favorite toy in kindergarten; religious groups exhort us to give unto others and/or “give ’til it hurts”. We’re told God loves a cheerful giver. The widow’s mite. Self-help groups tell us “Givers Gain!” Every charity commercial makes you feel bad if you don’t give more to feed orphans somewhere. Some people take in that message and comply…they give until it hurts and then some.
Of course, giving isn’t wrong. But if you’re regularly giving to someone who gladly takes, there’s a chance you might be enabling them to expect to permanently take from you, thus disabling their own potential. Which is pretty short-sighted on your part! If you are always the one who forgives; if you are always bending over backwards; if you give and give and the other person is unkind, neglectful or abusive, take it as a warning.
The minute you feel like you’ve “given too much”, it is a message from your inner guidance system telling you that you probably have.
I am not advocating stopping giving. I am advocating stopping being taken advantage of. Stop being a martyr. Stop letting others step all over you until you are empty. (My friends, this is the voice of experience talking! I am sometimes guilty of this too!)
People who we’ve trained to take us for granted (grown children, relatives, partners, bosses, employees) come to expect constant mercy, constant cash, constant sacrifice from us. It sets up an unfortunate dynamic that, like the quote on this page says, causes you to lose value in their life. You’d think just the opposite is true. But reflect on the people to whom you’ve over-given. Are they grateful, appreciative, happy and caring toward you? Or do they just require more?
I’m increasingly convinced that the secret to all of this is to listen to your own body, heart and soul. It will tell you when you’re out of balance. If you are giving so you have the ability to manipulate or control someone, it is not healthy giving. If you are giving so many second chances or so much money, time or energy that you feel personally depleted and perhaps even a little resentful, it is not healthy giving.
The solution? Take a step back and as calmly as possible, observe how you continue to create this imbalance. If you don’t like what you see, summon up your courage and change the dynamic. You are responsible for your own life, just like other adults are responsible for theirs.
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