“He who serves the most, reaps the most.” Jim Rohn
Last week I wrote about how takers can stop taking and this week I’d want to flip the coin and speak on how I believe givers should set their tables. 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. Let’s get right into it. When you are a giver you naturally set a table for everyone, and you don’t look for anything in return. This is where it gets complicated because you never stop and you will then be taken advantage of.
Now I do understand how you are wired to keep doing it even when you know you are being taken for a ride. And most givers never admit that they feel taken advantage of but we all know we look back at that time that someone said if you lend them money they will pay you back in a week. Just like the other million times before, the week passed and they didn’t pay you back. Below I have a few things I believe can make this journey better and ease the subconscious dilemma of ‘ is it really worth it?’
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 devaluing 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 mentor 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. And 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. So I know how far my generosity goes, which leads me to the next point.
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 Gandhi 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 intended your actions are. So when you set your table, do not be pressured to serve lobster just because your guests have never had lobster. If you are happy with steaks then your guests will have steaks, always remember; It is your table.
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, recognise that you are not giving for authentic reasons. Give freely and from the heart. Release any sense of duty or compulsion. It’s a privilege for people to sit at your table not a right just because you have the means to set a table.
Model How You Want Others to Be
Many mothers I know, including my own, 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 behaviour. Show your children how you can give while still existing and receiving.
I have an 8 year old son and he is fully understanding what giving is. As a teachable moment when he asks for something I usually ask him to give away something in return. The higher the value that he wants from me, the higher the value he has to give away as well. This doesn’t always go as planned but I believe he is learning that in order for him to receive he has to give. In essence when he comes to sit at my table he usually doesn’t come empty handed.
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 people 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. I usually have conversation at my table about how to set your own table, most people hate it because they are in need and cannot see where I am coming from but few do see it. This in turn allows us to have these sort of conversations more often even after they have had what they needed taken care of.
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. 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. As my father used to say, once in a while cook yourself a big meal and have it all by 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 first 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.
I hope these tips on giving have been helpful. Try a few out and let us know how this has shifted how and when you give in the comments section.