Recently I wrote about living for yourself versus living for others. A lot of people contacted me about how difficult this was for them. Some said being raised Christian, they were imbued with a mission of giving to others as an act of Christian sacrifice. Others asked how to receive when you are a natural “giver” not “taker” kind of person. I hope to give some tools and support to my fellow “givers” so they can learn to give without depleting themselves and hopefully also learn to receive.
Redefine Sacrifice: Sacrifice is defined as “the surrender or destruction of something prized or desirable for the sake of something considered as having a higher or more pressing claim.” The question to ask is why is someone or something always more pressing than your needs? Yes, sometimes others have a more pressing need than yours. Say for instance your child breaks their arm – I think we could all agree that their medical needs are more pressing than your daily needs at that moment. But look at how often you view your needs as less than others. Is it a weekly occurrence? Daily? Hourly? The other definition of sacrifice is “a loss incurred in selling something below its value.” Are you selling yourself short? Are you continually devaluating yourself? Helping others and the occasional sacrifice are wonderful, but if it becomes your normal way of living you are negating your value as a fellow human being.
Give Without Giving Yourself Totally Away: The key is to give to others without giving away yourselves. As a coach this was a very important concept to learn. Throughout the day I give to others, but I do so without giving away myself. I exist. I desire. I receive. And I am able to give to others. Giving does not mean disappearing into others’ needs. Just like we give presents to those who love, the gift of giving should be something outside of ourselves. It adds to their lives without taking away from our own.
Create Boundaries: Determine who you give to and when you give. We do not need to be paid back for things we freely provide, but we should also not feel like we are being taken advantage of. Give only when it feels good to you. You should feel better and more fulfilled after you give, not drained. Giving should be as Ghandi has been reported to say, selfish. If your giving feels as good if not better for you than the person you gave to, then it is worth it. And remember, if it feels bad when you are giving, what you are giving out has bad energy as well, no matter how well intentioned your actions.
Release the Guilt: Nothing in the world requires you to give to others. It is a choice. Release your guilt and sense of obligation. Cut the emotional cord you have to others. This emotion is what ties you to guilt giving. Whether you think that others will not like you or that it would make you a bad person if you don’t give, recognize that you are not given for authentic reasons. Give freely and from the heart. Release any sense of duty or compulsion.
Model How You Want Others to Be: Many of the mothers I work with feel compelled to sacrifice for their children. However, what does this sacrifice teach your children? As a constant giver, you are showing your children that they are not worth as much as others. Be a mentor and model the ideal behavior. Show your children how you can give while still existing and receiving.
Be a Mentor Not a Fixer: Find the balance between giving and doing for someone. If we tied our children’s shoes for them and never taught them how, they would grow up to be adults who could not handle this simple function of adulthood. This is the old adage of “give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach a man to fish and he will never go hungry.” Allow the other to take responsibility for themselves and be there to teach and educate, not to do it for them. Sometimes it is hard to watch those who are struggling, but remember you had to learn on your own too. Challenges educate and build character – don’t make it too safe or easy as you may actually be doing them a disservice.
You Are the Only One Taking Care of You: You are the only one responsible for taking care of yourself – accept the responsibility. Just like charity begins at home. Giving starts with giving to yourself.
Replenish Yourself: Large or small, giving and caring for others can deplete us. Find ways to give to yourself to help you recharge. Flight attendants remind us to put on our oxygen mask before helping others. Be sure you are receiving adequate self-care before you give to others. This will ensure you are taken care of so you have something to give to others.
Stop Thinking All or Nothing: Release the notion that you can either be a giver or a taker. Sometimes you need help and sometimes I do. Focus on who needs the support at the moment and just make sure you get a turn. Or if it helps, wear the badge of giver – but be sure that one of the people you give to is yourself.
I hope these tips on giving have been helpful. Try a few out and let me know how is has shifted how and when you give.