My whole life I have been a giver.
At least that’s what I thought. Well, it turns out I may not be as skillful as I believed.
I grew up believing you give everything you can. For me, this most often manifests in the way of giving my time. I’ll be a best friend to anyone and everyone, even if it’s terrible for me. And I’ve never been one to discriminate.
You need to share opinions about a new relationship? Let’s spend a few hours talking it over; I can forget about my deadlines. Having another melt down? Come over and I’ll cook you dinner. Don’t have any friends or family in town? Let me be the one to host the party for you. I’ve even sustained negative relationships for years believing I was being compassionate because I didn’t want to hurt the other person.
Truthfully, this trait is one of my best and worst qualities.
Sure, at first glance it seems wonderful. It is why I have so many wonderful people around me. But at times, it feels almost self abusive, giving and self-sacrificing with reckless abandon to the point where I have nothing left. When I sit down at the end of the day, I am both physically and emotionally drained.
In my younger years this kind of behavior served me well. Give and give and give until I literally fell over. The more I put myself out there, the more buzz I had around me: more friends, more opportunities, more of everything. As years pass, I’m realizing it’s impossible to keep up, not to mention completely unsatisfying and disingenuous.
There is nothing skillful about giving without parameters.
My meditation teacher recently spoke about “Idiot Compassion” in one of his teachings. The idea resonated deeply with me: the notion that we’re giving more for ourselves than for the sake of the person to whom we’re “giving” (I may, in fact, be the poster child for the concept).
Without a trained mind, giving is merely an act of ego and an attempt at self satisfaction. How can I possibly know what is best for other people? I think I’m being compassionate when ultimately I am just clinging to my ideas of what it means to be selfless.
As a “yes” person, I must learn to say “no.”
A tough, tough lesson for me.
I hate saying no to people. I don’t like letting people down. However, what kind of friend am I if I do things out of some imposed sense of obligation and not out of pure heart? I’d hate to think people I hold close are spending time with me only because they feel like they should. Honesty is the only pure sense of compassion here. Not an obligatory hang out session.
So, I am left seeking a balance, a middle path. I will always be a giver and I want to honor that pure piece of myself. While my actions may at times be confused, I believe my intentions are true. Perhaps maturation and years of practice can help me create comfortable boundaries and learn to express them skillfully.
For the time being, sorry, I won’t be able to make your BBQ this weekend. Thanks so much for understanding.
Brie Doyle is a writer based in Boulder, CO. After teaching middle school for seven years, she resigned to pursue writing and stay at home with her kids in 2009. Aside from traveling, Brie’s true passion is writing novels. She has written two, one that that takes place in India, and another in NYC and is currently seeking agents/publishers. In her free time, Brie can be found doing yoga, working on her Ngondro (still), running, playing with her kids, traveling back and forth to Asia or making light of life on her blog: The Real Housewife of Boulder County.
Editor: ShaMecha Simms