I had a conversation with a friend today - a heartfelt discussion on her unending need to give everything of herself to everyone, only to be disappointed when others do not respond with the same level of enthusiasm when she is in need of their help. I’ve been in her shoes, and I remember how hard it was to not be disappointed in people and their lack of appreciation, let alone ability to give something back. She told me how she tried to be there on all levels for her significant other, no matter what his needs were. She even told me that if he had a headache, she would offer to massage his temples for him to alleviate his pain. I was touched by her efforts...but wow, just wow. If Bill has a headache, and even bothers to tell me, he’s thankful if I offer to go get the Excedrin for him. More often than not, he says nothing until he’s already taken the Excedrin and is on the road to recovery. I don’t think there is a chance in hell he would expect me to rub his temples for him. And I am sure he’s not dumb enough to ask me to do it.
Since the beginning of our relationship, Bill and I have tried to always be there for each other, but we are not the type to encroach on each other’s space or our individual need to handle things alone. That is one thing we have always had in common. We’re both extremely self-sufficient, and loath to ask anyone for help. Honestly, I think we could both stand to be a little better about asking for help. But, when the chips are down and something comes up that requires us to be there for each other, we are a team that always holds each other up. I like it this way. I’ve always been headstrong (some might even say stubborn, although I don’t see it) and I am fiercely independent. Bill mirrors me in that respect. Both of us are givers though, and sometimes we see the need arise when we have to pull each other back from putting ourselves out there far too much for those around us. It’s just our nature, but over the years we have both learned how and where to draw the line between helping and being the doormat.
There are many that have their “doormat” out for anyone and everyone, and for those who are truly givers, their doormat most certainly says “welcome” in very large letters. For most of my life my doormat didn't just say "WELCOME". It said “Come on in and have a seat. What can I do for you to make your life perfect for you.” I’m not kidding. The situations (not of my own creation) that I have gotten pulled into over the years run the gamut from comical to downright pathetic. My mother, for years, would shake her head at the number of people who would happily wipe their boots on my forehead/doormat and take advantage of my kind and giving nature. There was nothing I wouldn’t do for another person, whether I knew them well or not, even at my own personal expense. After a while, such things tend to wear down a person’s heart and soul. Even though you may say that you have no expectations for something in return, deep down somewhere in the subconscious, it is only human to expect to at least be treated in kind, should the situation arise. For the most part though, people just cut and run, leaving you standing there bleeding, not knowing what hit you, or how they could be so unfeeling and cruel. But the fact is, they don't mean to be cruel, they’re just not you. It is unfair to expect others to act exactly as you do because not everyone has the same level of compassion etched upon his or her heart. And not everyone realizes that paying it back, or even paying it forward, is the only real path one should take...so sad for them, really, for there is no greater pleasure than giving of yourself to another person for the sheer joy of giving.
These days my doormat tends to say “Come on in, have a seat, and we can talk about what’s going on in your life” before I overcommit myself to something that is clearly not my problem to fix. I’ve found that if you fix everything for a person, they lose the ability to fix things on their own, and it becomes an endless cycle of you giving, and them taking. I believe the shrinks call it “enabling.” Better to give someone the tools to fix their life all by themselves. That is the real gift, sort of like the “teach a man to fish” thought. And in the end, you expect far less in return. You just feel good for having helped someone move forward in their life in a positive way.
I hope my friend sees her own worth, and realizes that you don’t need to do everything for anyone. Usually they are more than capable of handling most things themselves, or with just a bit of assistance. I, for one, think she is a truly incredible person who deserves better. Relationships are never always 50/50, but certainly they should never be 80/20 or 90/10 all the time. My advice to her was REEVALUATE. Look at what the real expectation is from the other person. Do they really expect you to put yourself out there completely on their behalf 100% of the time? Probably not. Givers have a hard time distinguishing between what is expected, and what is “too much.” I have a few years on her, so I’m guessing she will learn this lesson eventually, then pass it along to the next poor sap with the filthy doormat on her forehead.