So many times over the years I have repeated a pattern which has often, if not always, ended up in me feeling drained, depleted, and sometimes discarded. When you find yourself in a situation or in relationships with different people – be they personal or professional – and find that you are continuously giving of yourself, or rescuing others in their time of woe to the point of your own mental and spiritual exhaustion, then it is time to stop. It is time to reflect. It is time to put yourself first.
While an awareness of the needs of others and being a compassionate, giving person is a great thing, you do not want to be taken for granted either. It is wonderful if the one you are helping recovers, but if they ghost you and then go on their merry way and never keep in touch, if they don’t care about you or even ask how you are going, well…it feels like a slap in the face.
Over the years I’ve had other people tell me to just not get involved. Don’t get involved because you’ll end up getting hurt. It can be true, and that is the risk we take. When someone comes to you and pours their heart out to you, it is a sign of trust and humanity. It is an honour for another person to feel that they can look to you for advice, comfort, or a moment of sacred sharing. I’m all in when someone confides in me. When they are in a twist and are crying in front of me, I feel like it is a sanctified time with another human being. They are raw and red, with forsaken and sad eyes. How can you ignore that?
Such people often come to ‘nice’ people to unburden themselves. You know the word ‘nice’ can be loaded, right? It conjures up images of the well-behaved girl or boy next door, who never gets into trouble (a good thing) and is liked by everyone. The flipside to this is that nice people almost always become the easy targets for other people’s problems and spats. Nice people are like beacons or bees to honey – whatever metaphor you like. They can also become the ones whose hearts can easily be stomped on. Nice people have decency as their emblem, and others should respect that and respect you for it, but sometimes this can be taken advantage of.
This would often happen at work, with office politics, gossip, and so many issues, that colleagues would reveal their woes to me. Why me? Being a logical and ‘nice’ person who likes to solve things (normally linked to a computer), and someone who is known to be reliable and very professional, my mind would be whizzing with strategies to fix people’s issues if they needed help. I love being of service and answering things. A psychological band aid on the knee ‘twas me.
But before I would know it, days or weeks later (while I would still be wondering how I could help them, or sending clever little emails of encouragement with uplifting pictures or jokes) I would hear that they were promoted, getting paid more, or enjoying grand holidays on the other side of the world without a care or thought about anyone else, including me. There I was, feeling sorry for them while they were somewhere out on the ocean or in the skies over the Pacific.
So what does the nice perpetual giver type of person discover when they find themselves out of stuffing , or like a spent tube of toothpaste on the floor, with no one around them? How do we get our juice back? What happens when we are the ones who need that shoulder to cry on, or hope for that peppy email in our inbox?
Okay, we don’t do these things for others in order to get something back, or some other amazing reward, because we know that just being there for someone and helping them does make them and us feel great. It is the noble and Christian thing to do. But when you do it over, and over, and over, and over, and over again to the point where other people have been relieved and have moved on, you just don’t want to be the sponge left in the sink with their problems weighing you down. You want to have boundaries. You want to be healthy and happy too.
We want to listen to these people, advise or encourage them, but then focus on your life and your own strength. You can only do so much. I remember helping someone out so much that when I needed and hoped for their support in my time of struggle there were crickets chirping – I was left high and dry and told in no uncertain terms that they didn’t want to know about it. I was stunned. I walked away.
Life is about giving and taking in balance. If you support someone else, and have a true connection with them, they should also be there for you without you having to beg for it. You do not want to be a doormat. An honest relationship is based on mutual respect. If not, wish them well but then walk away. If they were meant to be in your life they will come back. God is amazing at looking after us like that. Remember this the next time you put your lifesavers hat on.
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