If you’re expecting something in return, it’s not really “giving”, is it?
Ok, before I get into it, just letting you know this is number 3 on the list.
Some people say there’s no such thing as a selfless act—that any time we do something to help another person, we get something in return, even if it’s just a warm fuzzy feeling.
I’ve spent a lot of time playing with this idea in my head to understand whether or not this rings true.
The thing is I genuinely like helping people.
Yes, it does make me feel good to give but it doesn’t really bother me to know it feels good to help someone else. That, to me, is a completely acceptable type of selfishness. Or am I wrong here?
What gives me cause for concern, however, are the underlying expectations we often have when we give “selflessly.”
We’ve all been there.
We cover for our colleague because we know we’ll need their help next month.
We give our sister £20, and then silently look for ways she can pay us back, even if not monetary.
We support our friend’s start-up business, and then feel angry when she isn’t as proactive in offering us support.
I’ve learnt the hard way that these expectations cause more stress than joy. They mar the act of giving, which makes me feel slightly guilty!
They lead to disappointment if the person I helped doesn’t return the kindness; and they tie my intentions to an internal score card, which sometimes places a wedge in my relationships.
Not only that, by having expectations, we can come across entitled, and then don’t fully appreciate when the person does indeed ‘give’ back to us.
So I’ve been asking myself, “What is my expectation?” before I do something for another person. And the answer I find most acceptable—cheesy as it may sound—is: to feel good and show love.
Strangely, when I release the need to control what I get for giving, I get enough, somehow, even if it isn’t from the same person I have ‘given’ to.
Now, that’s not to say we should feel obliged to help everyone. In order to help people, we have to say no sometimes. A lot, actually. It’s hard, and I hate it, but I remind myself that when I say no to someone, it means I can say yes to someone else.
And if everyone got a yes, that’s just the same as everyone getting a no, because I can’t possibly help everyone who needs it. I just don’t have enough hours in the day. Nobody does.
My husband has taught me that releasing expectations doesn’t mean you give other people permission to treat you thoughtlessly. It just means you check in with your motivations and give because you want to and then ask for things directly when you want them. People who care about you will be there for you in return.
Let’s face it: none of us is always kind. Human nature dictates we’ll act with one eye on what’s in it for us, at least occasionally. And I think that’s okay, as long as we make a conscious effort whenever possible to do good for the sake of it because “The true measure of a man is how he treats someone who can do him absolutely no good.”
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