I imagine that most of us would agree with thesaurus.com with regards to the synonyms for selfish in the above photo. When it comes to our own definition of what is selfish and what is unselfish there may be times when the lines are blurred. Growing up in Hong Kong I attended a school where the motto was Daily Giving Service. This is a wonderful concept, inspiring us to be caring, kind and responsible individuals. Like any virtue though, this works when it is in balance. Can we be too kind, too caring, too responsible? The answer ‘yes’ applies when caring becomes over-protective or controlling or we are kind to the point where we neglect ourselves and when we take over other people’s responsibilities and rob those people of the opportunity to step up and take charge of their own needs. What is the middle way? How do we know when we are out of balance? For those of you who have been too kind, you can recall the times your kindness backfired and people took advantage of you in ways you could not even begin to imagine.
One time when this happened to me, a friend said to me, “Sandra you are only upset because you thought this person had the same values as you. When you see that not all people are like this you won’t be disappointed”. Her advice was well taken and no, I have not become a jaded cynic, mistrustful of everyone. Instead I have learned to refrain from being too trusting, for example, I no longer pay someone I hire the full amount before they even start work because I feel they need some help to get started. This happened to be decades ago where I paid a considerable amount to a young man to do some work around the house and he took the money and ran off to find his girlfriend who had just broken up with him. I had given him the full amount because he was just starting out and I saw myself as a one person ‘crowdfunder’ to get him on his feet. I succeeded in getting him on his feet for sure, in the opposite direction from me! I never saw him or my investment again. I forgave him for his lack of integrity and felt I had paid a handsome tuition for a life lesson that was worth way more than the amount I had given him.
We can be caring to the point of being over-accommodating. I see this with people who dread visiting someone and yet do it because they feel if they stay away it will seem like they don’t care. What happens though to the person who is receiving the visit who feels like their visitor can’t wait to leave? Would it not be better to visit less often and find a way to enjoy the visit? Perhaps that would lead to being able to visit more often or … not. I have a good example of this. I know a family where every year a woman would arrive on Christmas Eve and spend several days over Christmas with her parents. One year her mother said to me “ Oh, she is so exhausting, I wish she would just come on Christmas Day and then go home. I am wiped out after suffering all her drama after even one day!” Her daughter said to me “ Oh, I wish I didn’t have to go and stay for so long, it’s so hard to be around them for even one day!” I heard this when the daughter was over forty years old! I wondered why these people had to be so unauthentic and in their needing to be seen as caring were actually causing each other unnecessary grief.
Perhaps at times it is because we leap to conclusions that people cannot manage on their own, that they need our intervention in order to succeed. A friend of mine told me her sister had been diagnosed with cancer and needed chemotherapy. She was planing to fly a couple of thousand miles to stay with her sister so she could drive her to her appointments. I thought her sister had two adult sons who lived nearby and I asked her why they couldn’t help out. Her reply to me was “oh, they are never there for their mother’. I suggested that perhaps she was not giving them the opportunity to do this if she was rushing to the rescue before even checking if they could help out. She agreed with me and waited and both sons stepped in and took their mother to her appointments.
Are you able to be of service, kind and caring while still being authentic, looking after your own needs as well as the needs of others? Do you have healthy boundaries? Are you able to step back and let others step up to claim their own responsibilities? Is the ‘good you ‘BE’ (I prefer that over the word ‘do’ that was on the mug in the photo) truly good for all people involved? I’d love to hear your comments and if you’d like to find out more on how we can find the sweet spot of balance of being of good service while listening to our inner wisdom, feel free to contact me via the contact form below.
Featured Photo by Nathan Lemon on Unsplash