Giving more than you take

posted by Jeff | Thursday, September 3, 2020, 9:04 PM | comments: 0

One of the things that has come out of therapy is that I have in my life a history of giving more than I take. This is not inherently a bad thing or a character flaw, and I am not a victim in this observation. That said, I've got a history of professional and personal relationships that were not just inequitable, but wholly lopsided. When they get lopsided enough, you put yourself at risk to resent those situations.

I had to go pretty deep to figure this out. When I started talking it out, it started more with certain jobs, intermittently over the years, when I would treat work as an extension and vital part of my identity. Then I went back to college relationships and friendships, where the inequitable relationships were the default. Many family relationships were even worse. On top of that, the pattern includes a strong desire for me to fix that which I think is broken, even if it doesn't want to be fixed. Yikes, that's some pretty self-destructive stuff.

The good news is that this isn't something that I do as much these days, beyond being a parent, which necessarily requires you to give more than you take. But there's a long trail of damage to clean up that still has a surprising impact on my current state. It's wide ranging, and includes a lot of family issues and people I haven't even spoken to in literally decades. It's not a thing where I'm looking for reparation as much as it is a thing of letting go or being at peace with things that are frankly the ancient past.

Putting aside my therapy for a moment, there is an interesting thing going on here with the social and moral contracts that we accept as admirable. Leaving the world better than you left it is a good ambition to have. It gives us purpose and meaning. Helping those in need feels good and it's one of the ways you become a participant in a functional society. But it does seem like there's a proportional risk associated with the effort as well. The more personal the help, the more likely you might feel that you're being taken advantage of. It throws a wrinkle in that math.

I'm not sure what I do with these observations.


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