You’re a giving person. You like to see people happy, and you like it when they are happy with you. This is natural, isn’t it?
Yes, absolutely. There are many natural givers in this world—people with temperaments that love to give and serve others. Giving is an admirable, Christ-like quality—remember, it is more blessed to give than it is to receive.
But sometimes giving hurts. No one likes to feel taken advantage of. You may even vacillate between loving and hating this quality of yourself: If it’s so admirable, why do I feel like a doormat?
It is possible to honor your giving nature while not allowing others to take advantage of you. Before you can begin to change behavior, you must understand that givers and takers live by a different set of beliefs.
Change your beliefs and you’ll change your behavior:
Belief #1: If I am good to others, they will appreciate it.
This just isn’t true. A large portion of people on this planet—the takers of this world—do not have this belief. Yes, some people will appreciate all you do, but others will not. Stop wasting your energy on those who don’t. Nothing you do is going to make them see it.
Belief #2: If I give, others will give in kind.
This is called The Law of Reciprocity and it basically says that when someone does something nice for you, you will have a deep-rooted psychological urge to do something nice in return. As a matter of fact, you may even reciprocate with a gesture far more generous than their original good deed. Givers do this naturally. Takers do not. If you continue with this belief, you will be waiting a very long time to receive even scraps in return for your kindness.
Belief #3: If I give, they’ll be happy.
If you’ve ever spent time with a toddler, you know there is no satisfying them. The same is true with takers. They are never happy. They may pretend to be happy just enough to keep you motivated to keep giving, but they are never truly satisfied.
Belief #4: If I leave the relationship, I will be lonely and they will be hurt. First, takers rarely get “hurt.” They get offended and play it as hurt to manipulate your emotions. Often times this works enough to keep the relationship going. Second, leaving a selfish relationship may cause you to feel lonely temporarily, but it opens you up enough to allow others into your life that appreciate you. In selfish relationships, you may feel useful because you are busy, but you are not truly getting your needs met.
Many givers struggle with setting limits. But by saying no to bad behavior, you say yes to healthier relationships. When setting limits, your motive is not to change the behavior of the other person. Your goal is to protect yourself and guard your heart. In doing so, maybe, just maybe the other person will see the error of their ways. If not, there’s nothing more you could have done.
The best way to stop others from taking advantage of you is to guard your own heart, and leave the changing of others’ hearts up to God.