Bleeding to Death

We’ve all known people who endlessly complain that we haven’t done enough for them. It doesn’t matter to them if we’re doing our best. They still want more, and then we feel guilty for not satisfying their needs or demands.

Why would we feel guilty for doing our best? Because all during our childhoods, our parents and others taught us that we are responsible for the feelings of others. They didn’t mean to do it, but they still did.

Each time they scowled or growled following some action on our part, they taught us—almost always unintentionally—that their feelings were CAUSED by US. In short, we learned that we were RESPONSIBLE for the feelings of others, whether we were doing our best or not.

How can we get over this false belief? Perhaps a metaphor could help. There is a nationwide shortage of blood, to the point that in many city’s surgeries are being canceled due to the lack of blood. As a person of conscience, should I not feel obligated to give all my blood for this noble cause? Should that not be my duty? Sure, medical advice is not to give more than a pint of blood every six weeks, but how could I live with the guilt of possibly allowing people to die for a lack of the blood I have? What if it were children who are being impacted or people with serious illnesses that are being impacted?

It’s obvious, isn’t it, that if I give all my blood, two negatives effects will result: First, I die; second, I will no longer be able to give blood to anyone. So giving too much blood actually turns out to be LESS responsible and loving than repeatedly giving a lesser—and more reasonable—amount. Giving too much blood can be quite similar to giving others too much of anything. If someone demands a great deal of my time, attention, and energy, and if I comply, it’s likely that I’ll eventually arrive at a point where continued giving will sap my energy and make me useless to myself or others—much as it occurs with giving too much blood. How do you know it’s “too much” and not just you being self-centered?

This can be distinguished by the feeling of resentment that pops up right at the instant when the giver hears, sees or otherwise notices the need of someone else. The giver usually quells it immediately out of habit and continues to mechanically meet the need. However, until practice has been done enough to notice it at the onset, it can be noticed by the end result after the giving has happened. There is usually a feeling of exhaustion and frustration, of being under appreciated even. Just like in giving too much blood, you would feel the physical effects afterward such as light-headedness, low energy, fatigue, etc.

Regrettably, we tend to give in to the demands of others, especially the louder they whine. Why? First, as already mentioned, we respond to the training of a lifetime, feeling an inappropriate guilt for the feelings of others. We are stuck in the belief that if people around us are unhappy, in some way it must be our fault, or at least our responsibility to correct it. After all, essentially the whole world has this belief, so who are we to oppose it?

The second reason is we believe that our worth comes from taking care of others around us. We believe we are more valued when more people need us. It is still a foreign concept that people could WANT to be with us because they love us and not because they NEED us.

The third reason we tend to give in to the demands of others is that we lack faith. We don’t trust that people—including us—will be happier if they are required to be responsible for how they feel. We think that people in pain have to be saved or rescued. They don’t. In fact, growth requires struggle and pain, so if we take responsibility for the feelings of others, we weaken or even cripple them.

Give people the time, energy, and love you can give without becoming weakened yourself, just as you would give blood only every six weeks. It’s the healthy and balanced way to live—for you and for them.