Unhealthy Generosity

I was chatting with someone this morning about a conflict they were having in themselves – wanting to give but something not feeling right about it.  It was a great conversation and thought it might be worth sharing.  Mostly for the ‘givers’ out there.

We have lots of labels or ways we try to relate to the concept of ‘givers’.   People may want to debate it with me but the more I have explored, the more and more I tend to group ‘people pleasers’, ‘givers’, ‘helpers’, ’empaths’ and ‘high sensitives’ (HSPs) into a very close space.  People relate to these all differently and can find a sense of value and purpose in identifying or relating to one or more however there is a couple of common challenges they tend to all face;  soft or minimal boundaries and being taken advantage of.

So the person I was talking with shared that a friend had asked them to buy something for them on the promise that they would return the favour.  As the conversation evolved a few more bit of information came to light.  That they couldn’t buy it for themselves at the moment because their credit card wasn’t working.  That the friendship was rather new, a few months.  And that the person asking would be upset and unsure if they could still be friends if this person didn’t buy the item for them.  I think that is really the only essential information for this article.

Often ‘givers’ go back to rationalisations like

  • It’s only money, I can afford it.
  • They don’t have much and I am happy to share/give.
  • They haven’t done this before so one time is ok.
  • I’m glad/makes me feel good to help others.
  • I’m sure if I asked them they would do the same.

And I won’t argue with any of them.  Because when we think of generosity and altruism, all of these points are 100% valid and wonderful reasons to give to others.  So what’s the challenge?

The answer lies in asking yourself why do you want to give.  Because regardless of the situation, person, or gift,  if you can pause and get in touch with your feelings and motivation then I am pretty sure a significant change will begin in your life.  

So first we explored what would happen if they said no.  And what it would feel like if this person did disappear from their life.  No big deal as they are only a relatively new relationship.  And then we explored what it felt like and really meant when they even put the slightest doubt about the friendship over this purchase.  Again, easy to spot that it wasn’t a very nice thing to do and perhaps people like this aren’t great in our lives.   BUT here is the thing – there is still this underlying need to do it anyway right?  Regardless of the logic, this urge/guilt/need to respond to someone else’s needs still sits there.    And we fall back to ‘oh well its only money’.

The unknown need to please is the response to tune into.  You don’t need to understand why it exists (but there are answers out there for you) but bringing awareness to it will help.  The biggest reason this is important is that it is likely a pattern for you in life with lots of people.  So sure, for one person, one time it seems no big deal.  But it is most likely not just one person, one thing – it is likely your time, your energy, money and other possessions across lots of people.  If that sounds familiar then hopefully you see it is not one person one time.  But starting with each person each time will lead you to people and boundaries that provide balance.  It doesn’t have to be in relationships where the give and take is equal, although if it is in any kind of relationship then equal support and investment is also a good sign.

So what the heck do you look for then?  How do you know you are being generous/kind/giving in a healthy way for you?

  • Is there guilt or do you fear repercussions if you don’t give?
  • Are you being prompted or suggestions made to help?  This includes manipulations like others playing the victim, or subtle suggestions on how happy they would be if just X happened.
  • Do you feel obligated at some level else you will feel like less of a person?
  • Do you want them to like you? value you? Love you?

Real, healthy generosity is on your terms with only the wonderful feeling that you have helped as the outcome.  Any negative, stressful, or craving feelings are a clear sign there is something off. 

Unfortunately a lot of people survive by leaning on generous people… and generous people have learnt to survive by letting them.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: