Most of us spend our entire lives giving beyond our capacity.
How often have you thought, “Screw this job! I give and I give, but nobody appreciates it and no one recognizes it!”?
How often have you felt like you’re the only one who ever gives in your marriage? “No matter how much I give, he never even notices.”
How often have you felt like your kids have no understanding of how much you do for them? “I spend every waking moment working to give them a future, and they have no idea!”
The underlying assumption in all these?
You’re giving, but you’re not getting.
You give. You give, and you give, and you give. To your job. To your marriage. To your kids. To your church. You give until you’re all used up and then, when you’re completely spent and exhausted, you surrender. You leave.
You give until you give up.
It’s life as we know it. And we’ve just accepted that’s how things work.
And it’s bullshit.
It’s what we were taught to do! We know we’re not supposed to be “selfish,” so we turn ourselves into firehoses of generosity, just spraying good intentions to anyone in our radius.
The problem is, we’re not connected to some bottomless well. We’re all born with a strict limit on how much energy we have, and most of us are giving well beyond it.
You’re writing checks, but you’ve got no money in the bank.
Why is it that you feel like you’re giving so much, but you’re seeing zero return?
Your giving always has an unspoken expectation—that someone will notice. That someone will appreciate you.
You’re making a transaction. Whether you know it or not, you’re looking for payment. And since you’re not getting it, your tank continues to run on empty. You start to blame the person you’re “giving” to for not being grateful for how much you give. Eventually, that level of blame leads to disconnection—they’re not responding the way you want them to, so your relationship suffers. This disconnection will eventually result in separation. Once you’ve cut something off from your heart, how long can it possibly survive?
This cycle—giving leading to blame, blame leading to disconnection, disconnection leading to separation—is what I call the cycle of over-giving. It poisons jobs, families, faiths and—worst of all—it poisons you!
It’s time to be honest about your giving: it’s actually taking.
Yeah, it’s true. All that giving you do? The giving that you’re so proud of? It’s really just an advanced form of taking. You’re like a pickpocket, trying to get something without it looking like you’re trying to get something. You might be very good at it. You might have most people fooled.
But you don’t fool me. And if you’re honest, you’re not fooling yourself either. You’re always getting something out of the deal!
What are you really looking for when you give? It probably changes a little depending on who you’re giving to, but I’ll bet there are some common themes.
Acceptance. Approval. Recognition. Glory.
These are all good things and you know what? You deserve them!
Seriously. There’s no reason you shouldn’t have as much acceptance and approval as your heart can handle. You can give these things to yourself. You can fill your own cup, and give to others from the overflow.
But you’re not giving yourself those things right now. You could if you wanted to, but you’re not. You’re trying to get them from other people, and you try to get them by giving well beyond your capacity.
That makes the person you’re giving to into a thief. You’re basically forcing them take something that belongs to you, and so you start resenting them without really knowing why. Of course you resent them! They’re taking something from you!
Think about it. Do other people know that you’re expecting to get something from all the giving you’re doing? Of course not. In fact, they’re probably doing the exact same thing—giving to you well beyond their own capacity, and increasingly pissed off at you because you never notice it.
We’re all just wandering around, expecting to be paid for something we said we were giving away for free, and we’re getting indignant when it doesn’t work.
It’s completely insane.
If you want to break the cycle, you have to start giving to yourself!
I have a friend who was a writer at a big, national magazine. He worked long hours, climbed the ladder there, and was eventually put in charge of the entire thing.
He hated it.
He gave well beyond his capacity. He felt a false sense of responsibility for his employees, for the success of the magazine, even for his boss. And even though he achieved a lot of success there, he never felt appreciated. He never felt noticed. He didn’t even feel like he could take credit for all the success he got, because it was all so fragile. If he stopped overgiving, it would all come collapsing down around him.
Eventually, it got to be too much. He got exhausted and quit.
That’s probably a familiar story, but I want you to pinpoint why things went wrong.
Was it because he took the job? No way. This was a great job at a well-respected company.
Did he have a controlling boss who demanded too much from his employees? Maybe, but nobody can control you without your permission.
No, the reason things went wrong is that he had set himself up for failure by not being honest about his giving. If he had just shot straight with himself about the recognition and appreciation that he knew he needed, he wouldn’t have felt the drive to work so hard for everyone else’s approval. He wouldn’t have felt the need to take everyone else’s responsibilities on his own back. He would have been content to do the things that we enjoyed doing at his job.
It wasn’t his boss’ fault. It wasn’t his co-workers’ fault. It was his own fault. He created that world of overgiving. He made people around him into thieves. He created the separation. He felt like he was giving, but he was taking. He was the one who needed to give to himself.
Would he have climbed the corporate ladder as rapidly? Maybe not.
Would his boss demanded that he start doing more? Possibly.
But he would have had a congruence between what his heart and his actions. He would have been filling his own cup. That would have led to huge sense of satisfaction and wholeness. That would have led to him being an authentic person.
Is your giving really taking?
Are you making everyone around you into a thief by making them take things that belong to you?
Are you forcing them to rob you of your own needs?
Are you expecting this from your boss? Your co-workers? Your neighbors? Your spouse? Your kids?
If you want to live an authentic life from a place of love and acceptance, it’s got to start from within. You have to stop expecting a return on all the checks you’re writing but can’t cash.
You have to start giving to yourself. You have to start doing things that fill you up. You have to give to yourself and give to yourself and give to yourself until you’re overflowing, and use that overflow to give to those around you. If you don’t have overflow, you’ve got nothing to give to others. Nothing. You’re starving yourself to feed others, and you’re all out of food.
For the past few years, I’ve been filling myself. I’ve been giving to myself. I’ve been doing what feels good. And I’ve got to tell you, it’s been incredible. I’m in a terrific place.
And I’m in a place where I finally feel like I want to give to others. I want to help other people. I don’t need anything from them. I don’t expect a return. I don’t need them to scratch my back. Honestly, they don’t have anything I really need. I’ve already given it all to myself.
And it all started with giving to myself!
Welcome to your new reality of fullness.
You know what’s really behind that bitter, angry cry of “I gave so much!”? A fear of scarcity.
You say “I gave so much!” when you’re worried you don’t have all that much to give. You feel like you’re dishing out water from a shallow well, and you can sense there’s not going to be much left over for yourself.
“I give and I give and I give…” you say. That’s sentiment is a good sign that disconnection has already set in, and separation is right around the corner.
But here’s the good news. You can accept the reality that you need to give to yourself.
You can accept the reality that other people can receive from your overflow, and you can live from a place of fullness.
Your heart doesn’t have to be a place of scarcity when you’re forever on the verge of running out. When you’re giving to yourself, there is no scarcity. There’s no fear.
There’s only fullness!