“Give only to those that love you back”
I often see this well-meaning advice given in empath and personal-growth circles, and while I recognize that most of us need to set boundaries in our giving, I believe this can be a self-defeating attitude.
I would change that to … Set healthy boundaries, and sensible limits. Give for your own sake, and without need of reciprocity, if you can. Forgive yourself when you can’t. Don’t be afraid to say “no”. Many people are keeping a giving ledger in the back of their heads, and it can be crazy making, not just for them, but for their loved ones as well.
Most of us are really trading, rather than giving. I will do these chores, but only if I get the right kind of approval. I will do you a favor if you will do the same for me some other time. I will love you if you love me first. Then we wonder why, on this planet of wounded souls, that we are let down again and again and again. Once we let go of the need for approval or reciprocity, only then can we know the joy of true giving.
When you are feeling that old resentment, ask yourself: Did I give because I wanted to? Or did I do something I didn’t want to do because I was hoping for a pay-off? If the answer is the latter, then ask: Did the person I was “giving” to know there was a quid pro quo in my mind? Often, they don’t know. They “should” know, but they don’t. One of the good boundaries then is to make your expectations clear. Tell them. I will do these chores, but I expect some day you will do the same for me when I am in need. I will love you, as long as I feel loved in return. If your reaction is “I could never say that!” then you know the expectation isn’t entirely fair. If you can’t say it, you don’t have much of a relationship to start with, and you may want to think about walking away.
Ask yourself: Do I really want to do this thing? Is it a reasonable request? Will I feel joyful and enthused by doing this, or will I feel resentful? The answers to these questions will tell you a lot, not only about your relationships, but about your own motivations and expectations.
I still catch myself having that burst of resentment sometimes when I give and it isn’t acknowledged. But I have noticed that I can’t reach that person, but I will always reach someone, if only myself! If I get nothing more than the good feeling that comes from sharing my gifts, I’m ahead, no matter what they make of it. And since I’ve started thinking this way, I have noticed that I notice more people giving to me. Often it’s total strangers who help me out when my loved ones fail me. What goes around does come around, and the more attention I pay to that, the happier I am, and the more energy I have for giving.