practicing self-love

Givers and takers

 

If you are a giving sacrificing person, being in a relationship with a taker can be extremely difficult and draining.

Takers don’t know that they’re takers, and they don’t have self-imposed limits. They take would any sense of guilt. They don’t feel bad about continuously taking and then demanding even more.

That means it’s the givers who need to learn how to set boundaries and say “no” without guilt.

Often times, we are so used to being mistreated that it can be hard to recognize what’s really happening – our minds have trouble distinguishing fault, blame, and proper relational obligations. We’ve been conditioned to give and sacrifice our own needs for others, and going against those deeply held beliefs, saying no, creates lots of guilty feelings, and concerns about selfishness.

I like this list of behaviors as a good starting place to identify who the takers are, and where firm boundaries are most needed.

25 Warning Signals That You’re Dealing With a TAKER
Dr. Mark Goulston

1. They act entitled to whatever they’re taking from you.
2. They treat you as an extension of themselves.
3. When they hurt or disappoint you they don’t experience guilt, shame or remorse.
4. They won’t apologize to you, but will expect you to apologize to them.
5. Their wish is your command, and if you don’t comply, you don’t love them.
6. They believe their problems are someone else’s fault.
7. They believe that you and everyone else are in this world to make them happy.
8. When you give to them, they don’t feel compelled to say thank you or be grateful.
9. If they feel taken from by you, they become outraged and entitled to become enraged.
10. They don’t regret taking from you, but they regret not taking even more from you.
11. They need to have the last word in conversations.
12. They don’t take turns well.
13. They are impatient and hate to wait.
14. They interrupt or butt into conversations.
15. They act as if they are always right.
16. They act as if they are never wrong.
17. When they’re frustrated, they feel justified in doing anything to make themselves feel better.
18. They won’t tell you specifically what you are doing is wrong or ask you directly for what they need— they expect you to read their minds.
19. They are stubborn and you may confuse their stubbornness for strength and be attracted to them because of it.
20. They aren’t motivated to know, care or do anything unless it gets them something.
21. They are quick to ridicule or laugh at others, but have little ability to laugh at themselves or tolerate being laughed at.
22. They either cannot or will not put themselves in another person’s shoes.
23. They hold everyone else accountable, but evade being held accountable.
24. They talk much more than they listen.
25. They’ll expect a second, third and fourth chance from you when they hurt you; but they won’t give you a second chance when you hurt them.

Responsible expression

I am responsible for what I say. But I am not responsible for what you hear.

don Miguel Ruiz

 

This is one of my favorite quotes from don Miguel. It is such an important, healing, and liberating piece of wisdom. I’ve been thinking about this subject a lot lately.

Expressions of truth can be really powerful. The intent behind the words, the part of the expression that is conveyed indirectly, is even more powerful. We are responsible for wielding that power wisely.

Speaking truth does not carry the intent to harm.

In fact, speaking truth must be done very carefully and considerately, so that any collateral harm it does produce is minimized. It is typically done vulnerably, with the intent to cease harm that has already been happening.

If the intent of the words is to harm or diminish the other, that’s not justified as speaking truth – it’s vengeance, retaliation, punishment, even if the words are technically true.

Hurtful things, said in the heat of a conflict, in order to win or dominate over another person are not justified as speaking truth.

We are responsible for the harm that harmful words and intentions convey. 

On the other hand, we are not responsible for the interpretations other people make. We are not responsible for how our words are heard, or received by those who don’t understand, and don’t make an effort to understand.

There are people who are highly reactive, lacking a certain generosity of spirit. Upon hearing something they don’t like, they immediately jump to absurd unjust conclusions, make ridiculous or inappropriate assumptions, become offended, and sometimes work themselves up into hysterical outrage. Typically, they start flinging wild accusations and personal attacks in response, all without ever asking for clarification or deeper explanations. They seem to always be ready for mortal combat at a moment’s notice, completely certain that their views and interpretations are singularly correct, and therefore the speaker must be destroyed. 

Those of us who grew up in oppressive dysfunctional environments know these people well. We were made to believe that we are always responsible for these aggressive inappropriate reactions of others. If they got angry, it was necessarily always our fault. We learned that we must be really careful, tiptoeing around other people, because any careless or unwelcome words would have dire retaliatory consequences. We were made to believe that this is normal, and morally justified, and it was our job to manage their reactions. We learned that we must be thoughtfully sensitive and careful with people who would regularly lash out with cruelty and destructive intent, if we said the wrong things, tried to speak the truth, or expressed unwelcome opinions.

This piece of wisdom resets those false beliefs back on solid ground.

We are responsible for ourselves – to speak with love, to speak with respect and kindness, to express hurt feelings or anger in a measured or careful way. To hold others accountable in a fair and tempered manner.

But we are not responsible for how other people react, how they mis-interpret our words, how angry they get, how destructive they get, or how much gas-lighting or blame-shifting they seek to engage in.

Destructive people like to make others responsible for their emotions. If they are angry, they always find someone to blame, whether it’s justified or not. They are unwilling, or at times unable, to see themselves clearly or control their explosive feelings.

But that does not make us responsible for it. We don’t need to carry that responsibility, nor remain silent in order to avoid upsetting them. If they jump to conclusions, and twist words and intentions out of context, and get angry seeking to provoke escalating chaotic conflict – that is entirely up to them. We don’t have to apologize, nor feel guilty or responsible, for things others choose to get upset about.

Learning to make the distinctions correctly is really important and takes time, courage, and lots of patience to figure out.    

Try as we might, we cannot control how other people receive our expressions. We all want to be thought of as good people, to be liked, admired, accepted, and appreciated, but the reality is that everyone hears, sees, and judges others through their own filters. People make assumptions, judgments, and interpretations based on what they believe about themselves, and the pain they experience in their own realities. There is very little we can do about that in relation to another person. We cannot explain ourselves to someone who is unwilling or unable to see past their own filters. We cannot prove our good or innocent intentions when they are convinced they know our true malicious motives. And we cannot be responsible for how they interpret or react to what we say, when they are stuck entirely inside their own reality. 

When we realize this, we stop trying so hard to affect what others think of us or how they receive our words. You can’t control their opinions of you, or how they react to you. You can only do and say whatever is in your own integrity, guided by your own love, truth, and compassion. And how other people hear you or react is entirely their business. Their emotions, their reactions, are solely under their sphere of control.