Monday, January 7, 2008

A New Way of Giving

As a child taught to be a caretaker, giving came naturally to me. Giving comes naturally to most women. So if we serve a family member who seems to be more needy than others, requiring more time of us than others require, we give because we know how. But learning when to give and assessing how our giving is used is just as artful as not broadcasting ourselves all over every inch of our needy world.

There’s no doubt that most women know how to give. We give to our husbands, our children, our churches, and our jobs. We devote extra time to the promotion of civic and school organizations, helping sell Girl Scout cookies, volunteering at book drives, serving on committees, and helping with the formation of good works. Then we give to needs on the home front, especially when we have a family member who cannot seem to get over the next hill; even worse, he or she keeps taking the same hill over and over.

I’m not talking about family members who have special needs such as my precious nephew born with Downs. I’m talking about aiding a family member who has never grown up and accepted responsibility for his or her own life. For years I was bogged down in trying to help family members who would not help themselves but allowed me to serve them even though my efforts were not appreciated. Nor was I effective. They did not grow or change. Knowing when to hold back and allow a person to drop to the bottom is as important as knowing when to help a person going through a temporary setback.

In sucking relationships, the tendency is to believe that by trying harder we’ll improve the person. We coax, prod, advise, provide emergency funds, weekend getaways, more counsel, midnight vigils and yet, after months drag on, the situation has not improved. Our emotional firefighting has done nothing but leave us exhausted, like a person fighting the California fires alone.

You hear the same tapes being played over and over again. I can’t cope . . . My children are never going to obey me . . . no matter where I work, I always get a bad boss . . . women don’t understand my sensitive nature . . . I’m never going to get out of debt. You find yourself thinking about this person obsessively; their life has seeped in and taken over your’s. If this has happened, let the warning bell sound. You may be on the road to codependency.

But there are steps you can take to back away before your life is smothered by another person’s eternal crisis. This week’s blog theme is all about the fine art of giving relationally. Stay tuned, post your own thoughts, and take a moment to pray and ask God how He wants you to spend your time and your giving. If you have a prayer request, please let it be known and those who visit here can join me in praying for you. If you have a friend whose life is being drained by a relative, a grown child, a spouse, or even a passive-aggressive employer, have them drop by this week for a dialogue on the fine art of healthy caretaking.

Hugs, dear friend.