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The Hidden Hazards of Giving too much

When you give and share and expect something in return, like a compliment, a simple thanks, a favor or whatever it is, then you are not really loving. You are actually doing business. Why? Because business is about expecting returns. Love simply delights in giving and sharing unconditionally.                           Joel Randymar quotes 

Sentiments like those expressed in the above quotation abound.  They have the ring of truth, and glorify the unselfishness of the person who gives and gives without looking for anything in return.  However, in light of the hard realities of the imperfect world we live in, common sense demands that we season the virtue of selfless giving with a dash of self-preservation.

Not all human relationships are equal.  Many of the people we are involved with are doing business rather than loving unconditionally.  They exploit their fellow humans to get as much as they can.  Anyone who tries to set boundaries will probably be accused of selfishness.  The best response to that is, “If unselfishness is so wonderful, why aren’t you jumping at the chance to do something for me?”

A one-way relationship can go only in one direction.  When one person plays the role of benevolent fixer and provider and the other takes it for granted, burn-out is inevitable.  Just as it is necessary to inhale and exhale in order to breathe, a relationship thrives on give and take. 

A person who feels compelled to continue giving even when there is no reciprocation will slowly drown in a quicksand of discouragement and resentment.  The joy of giving and sharing becomes drudgery.  The spark of love and concern which make giving a delight is replaced by the hopeless feeling that no amount of giving will ever be enough.  The final outcome is the slavery of works righteousness. 

This downward spiral affects the recipient just as much as the giver.  Too much indulgence teaches people that it is all right to take advantage of others.  High-maintenance people wear out friends more quickly than socks.  Their exaggerated sense of entitlement deprives them of the gift of gratitude.  Even if they get everything they think they want, they are always dissatisfied because they have never experienced the satisfaction of giving joy to someone else.

Healthy, balanced relationships grow stronger as time goes on, and nourish everyone involved.  Each person is eager to assist and delight the other.  They share their resources, their time, and their concern without keeping score.  The burden and inconvenience of sacrifice are balanced by the joy and satisfaction of making a positive difference in the life of someone they cherish. The well of love is bottomless, kept fresh by a constant flow of giving.

Love implies a deliberate choice to act in the best interest of someone else.  If you truly care for someone, do not let that person exploit you, even if it feeds your own need to be needed. 

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