Lessons in Helping-Giving-Kindness Burnout
Let me tell you a story about a kind-hearted little boy.
A little nervous about attending a new school, he decided to help other kids in order to make friends.
It wasn’t long before he spotted a need. He helped a little girl named Kayley. She couldn’t read very well at all so he assisted her whenever he could.
The little boy and Kayley played and played and became friends. After only a couple of months she was reading much better. She didn’t need the little boy to assist her anymore. Eventually she stopped playing with him too.
The little boy was hurt.
He went to his mom and explained how much effort and work he put into helping her and now it seemed she wasn’t thankful at all.
We’ve all probably felt that way, when we helped or showed kindness and got NOTHING in return.
This wasn’t the first time for him. Being kind to another kid at had accidentally landed him a punch in the neck on the playground.
He even thought, ‘What’s the point of helping people if they aren’t grateful or they treat me mean?’
The mom thought about this. She knew exactly how he felt because she had experienced this most of her life.
And if you’re going to resent it, you’re better off not doing it. Meaning, the truth about kindness and helping is that it can go unnoticed or unappreciated. We can feel good AND get stung right back! This seems wrong and unfair especially to a child.
The mom explained to her son, ‘Helping others isn’t about getting what you want. If you help kids to make friends, you were expecting something in return. If you aren’t expecting anything in return, you can help just to help and feel really good about yourself.’
This was a lesson I’ve spent the last couple years reviewing. I have spent a lifetime helping others and neglecting myself. I’ve considered myself the “helper type”, which began by helping my parents in exchange for love…then friends or just being likable. I was always giving and expecting something in return, which inevitably led to resentment.
Hard to believe helping, such a nice gesture, can be so complex and even become something very negative.
So when my son in 1st grade came to me with hurt-helper feelings, I knew I had to end this pattern and explain the way helping and kindness works. Yes, the story was about my son, the big-hearted boy 🙂 He truly is. But being kind and helping need more explanation. It’s not as simple as the over-simplified, ‘Be kind’ cliche. They don’t tell you that in the brochure 😉
4 Tips on Helping:
- Helping needs to be on your terms. You do not have to help. That’s a hard one to hear for us helper-types, but it is not your God-given duty to help everyone. In fact if you view your life in that way, you can end up taking people’s power away from them. There’s a lot of factors involved in what it takes to help someone, and some are out of your control.
- You forget to help yourself. Helping others, while admirable, doesn’t need to be a complete sacrifice of yourself, especially when that’s done habitually. If you don’t care for yourself, you can not be a good helper. And if you don’t have time to care/help yourself then you do not have time to help others. I’m taking two certification courses right now and I’m reminded all the time by the instructors that we (students) are helping ourselves first. We can not heal others unless we are healed. And we cannot help others unless we have first helped ourselves. It has been strange for me to focus just on myself…in order to help others. Seems counterintuitive, but it’s the healthy path to helping.
- Do not expect anything in return. This isn’t giving your neighbor cookies and expecting a treat someday in return. That’s what I call a this-for-that exchange, and they happen a lot in our lives. ‘I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine’. What I’m referring to is helping someone and expecting a feeling to be fulfilled- even the purest thing like friendship or love in return. We may end up with heartache and worse…resentment. We must decide if we’re helping and expecting or just helping, plain and simple.
- Learn the difference between helping and enabling. The easiest way to tell? Are you helping the same people over and over again? This means you are literally NOT helping them. You are enabling them instead. This kind of help makes you feel better about yourself, but it really doesn’t help the other person. Are you attracting people who need a lot of help form you? This can point to codependency. You may have an extreme need to be needed- that’s codependency, which exists in unhealthy relationships.
If you have spent years giving and expecting only to be disappointed- maybe you feel resentment toward someone or must come to terms that you may not receive your fair share for what you’ve given, you need to “Make Peace With It.”
My exclusive guided meditation, “Make Peace” is on sale from $9.95 down to $1.95 just for this week!
Discover the peace and love you desire, the peace and love you haven’t received from others despite your best efforts. There are times when you are left with unfinished business or you are unable to get the closure you need or what you want from a situation. This can feel like torture. Sometimes you need to know that it is not fair…that what happened to you was not right…that what was said to you was not fair or right. It’s time to make peace with it.
Peace and Be Well