This Kind of Giving Can Harm Your Relationships
Does it often feel like you’re the one who gives more than the other person in your relationships? Does your attempt at giving look like putting the other person’s needs, wants and desires above your own? In your giving, do you eventually get to the place where you feel empty, drained, hurt and resentful towards the other person for not giving back to you in the ways you’re wanting?
If you’ve answered “yes” to any of these questions, then keep reading because this just might change your life.
It’s common to believe that giving is always the best thing you can do for your relationships, but what we don’t realize is, sometimes that’s actually not true. You see, what we often think is giving and self-sacrificial actually isn’t. Allow me to explain: If you answered “yes” to any of the questions in the beginning of this article, then there’s a good chance that you, like me, have used giving and self-sacrificing to avoid some deeper issues and insecurities. I know this concept may sound a little tricky, but let me further clarify what I mean…
There were various reasons for me being able to say “yes” those initial questions at different points throughout my life: Attempting to care for others, putting their needs above mine, trying to keep the peace, allowing my wants or desires to be subservient to someone else’s so they can get their way, not taking time for myself, and continuing to give even when I’m on empty – the list goes on. Sure enough, after a period of time I would eventually get to the place of feeling empty and defeated in those relationships.
Obviously, what I was doing wasn’t working for me or my relationships, so after getting desperate enough to relook at how I was showing up in my relationships, I began to ask myself some questions: Why does my giving have such negative fruit in my life? What am I doing wrong for it to illicit such a drain on my energy, emotions and relationships? Why do I always end up feeling resentful toward the other person?
As I began genuinely searching for truth, God revealed something extremely important to me: Godly giving is a free gift and does not require a specific outcome or response; if it does then it is no longer in the category of true giving. If I was honest with myself, even though it was suppressed deep down behind protective layers of self righteousness and martyrdom, I had to admit that my giving was not being offered as a free gift. My giving wanted a specific response from the other person. I wanted a particular outcome and when I didn’t get it, I could feel disappointment and resentment slowly building up toward the other person, creating distance and disconnection between us.
So if my “giving” wasn’t actually a free gift, what was my true motivation? Why had I chosen so often to exert myself beyond a healthy boundary? Why had I chosen to remain voiceless under the guise of caring for those around me? I was a little scared to ask myself these questions, because I knew the truth would probably reveal something hard for me to admit to myself, but despite this, I attempted to humble myself and earnestly listen to God.
Here’s what God shared with me: What I called giving and caring for others was actually a passive way to control the situation to get the outcome I wanted. My “giving” was more about me attempting to get my needs met without having to trust the other person, be vulnerable, or share my needs and face the fear of disappointment. Ouch! Many times when I gave beyond what I truly wanted to or didn’t speak up about my own opinion, it stemmed from a deeply held belief that if I made the other person happy, they would instinctually want to give back to me. This belief made it so I wouldn’t have to be vulnerable and ask, putting myself in a place where I could be hurt and rejected.
All of a sudden those times of self-sacrifice and martyrdom that I had actually taken some pride in became glaringly obvious that my giving was my own selfish defense mechanism to get my needs met in a non-vulnerable or powerful way. This was a difficult realization to acknowledge; it was painful to have to admit that a lot of the hardship I experienced in my relationships was self-inflicted through my choices to give into fear, lack of trust, and vulnerability – and that I wasn’t being an amazingly giving person – that it was actually for my selfish desires.
Too many of us are choosing to give out of passivity, fear and complacency as a way of avoiding the risk of expressing our needs and desires in our relationships. By doing this, we have sacrificed our voice and have used “giving” and putting others needs above our own as an excuse. When we do this, we often stay in this cycle of passivity and disappointment because of the pride we have developed by convincing ourselves that we are doing it in the name of “giving to others.”
The sad truth in all of this is, anytime we take away our voice and choose to not fully show up in our relationships, we aren’t serving the people around us. Instead we are giving into the fear of displeasing those around us. Truly serving those around us looks like being honest with ourselves and voicing those feelings in a respectful and vulnerable way regardless of the outcome. Even if someone is asking you directly to give to them beyond your own personal boundary, it is still selfishness when we choose to passively “give” to them just so they won’t be upset.
So I challenge you – If pride has snuck in, if you’ve bought into the lie that giving means you need to sacrifice your voice for the other person – choose differently. Sacrificing our own voice usually comes out of a place of fear, self-protection, and passively trying to get our needs met. Don’t allow yourself to give excuses in order for you to stay stuck in a lifestyle that isn’t getting you what your heart truly needs. Let go of the passivity. Let go of the false comfort and learn how to risk in being honest with yourself and those around you with powerful, loving and vulnerable communication.
by Brendon Byrne