“There comes a time when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump puddles for you.” –Anonymous
Those of us who are natural nurturers and caregivers, and those whose orientation in life is service will understand this message. There’s certainly nothing wrong with helping others, and nothing wrong with going out of our way to do an excellent job. And it’s not that we always have to have a self-serving reason to do things for other people. It’s more of a question of balance.
When you are constantly doing things for certain other people and they never respond in kind, you can be sure that your relationship is out of balance. I’m speaking in particular about relationships between adults, rather than parent/child relationships or teacher/student relationships. This is as true for platonic friends as it is for romantic relationships. There has to be a certain give and take in the relationship, or it’s not healthy. It may not be strictly 50-50 all the time, but there will definitely be some give and take.
Sometimes we get caught up in the idea of doing things for others because it gives us joy. Certainly, it’s nice to be needed. It makes us feel important, indispensable. We feel good about whatever it is we are doing, forgetting to really look at the other person and gauge whether he or she appreciates our efforts or even notices them. We forget to ask ourselves an important question: Doe the person even want our help? Are we taking away the person’s freedom to learn his own lessons, or solve her own problems? Are we doing for others what they could be doing for themselves?
Sometimes we give and give and give, and end up hanging onto a relationship that should have gone by the wayside a long time ago. Because we were focused on what we were doing for the person, we didn’t see the relationship itself weakening and dying. I’m not suggesting that we should only associate with people who can do something for us. That’s crass. But we should definitely re-assess our relationships once in a while to make sure that there is still a balance of give and take. Otherwise, we are only allowing ourselves to be used.