It’s hard to know when you are doing something for yourself or you’re doing it for someone else because part of the experience of giving to others is the satisfaction you feel in giving to others. Helping someone. Providing for them. Knowing that they feel taken care of and cared for by you. This is a feeling typically shared between family and friends, but obviously you can help people you don’t know. Even something as trivial as paying your taxes helps others and there’s no thank you card coming in the mail. You do it because you’re supposed to do it. You do it because it feels right, it feels good. You help people and they help you. That’s the way of the world.
When you give, people are thankful and grateful; they communicate those feelings. And after you’ve given or done them a service, are you now being selfish in wanting to be thanked? Because that’s just the thing, people also help others all the time. For complete strangers too. It’s in our nature. We hold open the door. We say please, thank you and excuse me. We are mindful of others. We look after one another. So how special is what you’ve really done? How sincere was that thank you? Maybe they didn’t not mean it or didn’t mean it very much or maybe it was an empty phrase.
But when you feel like you’ve really done something for someone. You’ve really extended yourself. Maybe you’ve even made a personal sacrifice. Putting your ego aside isn’t easy. Humility has its limits. You do something for someone because you want to do it. You don’t hold it over their head. You don’t get indignant later and say “Hey remember when I did that thing? Yeah well, now you owe me!” That’s wrong. But that’s one end of the extreme. It’s still okay to want to be acknowledged. We are still self-motivated individuals. We are motivated by our own needs and wants. We seek the light out of the dark. We drink when we are thirsty. We eat when we are hungry. Wanting someone to show us respect or admiration or to think of us as “more…” Isn’t that natural? That’s not wrong in moderation. So how far ahead of ourselves can we put someone else before we feel used? How far can you extend yourself before we feel taken advantage of by the other? We’ve all read The Giving Tree. You can’t give and give and give. One day, you’ll have nothing left.
I recently felt used by someone. Maybe I wanted too much praise. Maybe I was seeking too much of their approval. But I gave more than I should have. And because of that, when it was received, it felt like I gave too much. When you give to someone and you try to do the right thing, it’s hard to strike the right balance. I didn’t know I had gone too far until I had done it. There was no logical explanation. It just didn’t feel right after the fact. What once felt right and made me feel good, it changed. That’s life. You live and learn and you figure out your lines in the sand.