We are taught that giving of ourselves is good; be it helping our family and friends, giving to others in our community or being charitable. Selflessness is generally viewed as a virtue, something to strive for. Women, in particular, are raised to give selflessly to their spouse, children and other family members. So when does selflessness become a vice?
Selflessness becomes a vice when selflessness turns caring into carrying and service into servitude.*
We wouldn’t let a stranger with a giant, heavy duffle bag, saying “carry this for me”, throw it on us and we just say “ok” and stumble off with it. So why do we all too often allow family and friends to do just that…to dump their responsibilities, cares, and worries on us?
Because when it comes to selflessness, most of us are not taught boundaries…the times when saying no is really the virtuous response. Boundaries are all around us; most commonly fences around properties to protect against invaders, but even in our own bodies we have membranes surrounding cells to stop toxic entities from entering. Yet, so many of us let toxic people right into our lives while our cells fight toxicity with all they have. So are our cells smarter than we are? Or perhaps toxic people are harder to identify as such.
Boundaries are important, saying no can be empowering to both the person saying it and the person hearing it. It’s vital to assess a situation clearly, to determine when help is warranted and when help is really enabling a person who, for whatever reason, refuses to take responsibility for their own lives.
Selflessness can get you into trouble when you lose yourself in a relationship by merging too deeply with the other person; when you feel confused about who you are, what you need, and what you want; are taken advantage of by others who manipulate you into doing as they wish; accept excuses for bad behavior rather than doing something to correct it; don’t know how to set boundaries; get lost in escapism through addiction or even just daydreaming; let others take credit for your work or accomplishments; do the work for someone instead of just guiding them so they can learn to do it for themselves; let others assume that you are readily available whenever they need you no matter how it affects your life; and saying yes when you really want to say no.
Boundaries require learning the power of discernment. Discernment is being aware of your needs; valuing your time and energy; understanding that your time and energy is not inexhaustible; realizing that your needs should come first; paying attention to others’ cues of their true intentions; acknowledging that you have the right to stop others from harming you in word or deed; recognizing that each adult is responsible ultimately for themselves; comprehending that learning is a part of growing so you must let others learn their own lessons, in their own time, no matter how painful; being mindful of how others’ actions, words and feelings affect you; being conscious of how your actions, words and feelings affect others; seeking insight from those wiser than you; determining who really is wiser than you; trusting your intuition; loving yourself as much as you love others; and welcoming into your heart only those who respect and value all of the above.
This article was written by Jennifer Garcia, Founder of Spiritual Spectra; inspired by her most recent Spiritual Spectra Talk Show. To hear more on this subject, listen at https://www.youtube.com/SpiritualSpectra.
Let Jennifer help you to be more discerning, develop boundaries and help yourself as much as you help others. To schedule an appointment, contact her at info@SpiritualSpectra.com or 1-888-934-3642.
*The terms “Caring vs Carrying; Service vs Servitude” was posted as a comment by Mara Owens, a viewer of the Talk Show.