‘Giving until it hurts’ is quite commonly known concept yet surprisingly dangerous for emotional health (thank you to my friends who brought this concept up for me to address). Simply put, if everyone gave until they hurt, everyone would be hurt, and what good is that? Isn’t the point of giving to make someone feel cared about? And how can the recipient feel good knowing the giver is hurt? “Good” actions need to lead to more good or they’re not so good.
Like many people I was taught this concept of ‘giving until it hurts’, especially in the church environment because we’d be encouraged to “trust” God to provide, and that giving just a bit more than we felt comfortable with helped us show we “trusted” God to provide. It’s a sweet guilt trip that has made churches a lot of money over the years. Whether the money is used for good or not, this is a misuse of power. This is the same kind of mentality that made TV swindlers millions in the 80s: (swindler) “If you send us money we will pray for you to be healed.” This kind of fraud is arguably the most disgusting thing anyone can do as it takes advantage of vulnerable people. To be clear, this is not a biblical concept. There is no verse in the Bible that tells believers to give money to be healed or even to give until it hurts. If anything it teaches the opposite. The Bible promotes self control and being responsible. Yes, God can provide, but we’re told not to test Him (Luke 4:12, Matthew 4:7), and what kind of loving parents tell their children to set themselves up for failure in order for the parents to rescue them? Loving parents want to help their children, but only if necessary; parents want their children to be happy. If a teenager has twenty dollars to spend, spends forty, and then goes to the parent saying “You’re going to fix this, right?” That isn’t love; that’s taking the parent for granted. Even if you give the forty to a charity, you’re being irresponsible. I once had a very giving young person in my youth group, but by being overly giving to some people, he constantly needed someone to rescue him, which made him a burden to that person. That made his giving selfish because he wanted the benefits of giving to many by sucking the life out of someone else. More importantly, loving parents want their children to be happy. In fact, believers are supposed to be filled with things like love, peace, joy, and self control (Gal 4:22-23). It doesn’t say “You should be weak, get taken advantage of, and go into debt to help others be better off.”
Like I often do, I go to a scale to help show my point:
No Giving (-10)———-Give to a point (0) ———-Overly Give (10)
This scale goes from -10 to 10, but the only healthy spot is in the middle at 0 (nerds always get excited about my use of integers; my gift to them; I’m more of a geek myself so numbers have limited excitement). We need to be careful not to be too giving and Overly Give, which is what giving until it hurts is. ‘Giving to a Point’ is a wonderful way to encourage self worth, but at a certain point giving becomes selfish. That’s when it’s Overly Giving because it becomes about feeling control, earning something, avoiding unnecessary guilt, and/or to get a sense that people owe you. Like anything in excess, giving becomes an addiction as you Overly Give and become a ‘give-o-holic’. Who are these people? Conflict avoiding, very friendly people. And who are most likely the people on the No Giving side? Entitled, unthoughtful people who expect others to do their work for them because their parents have always done it for them (aka millenials). These people likely come from Overly Giving parents who spoiled them and now have a knack for finding other Overly Giving people to continue taking care ofthem. Meanwhile, if Overly Giving people find each other, it can become a battle of giving whether one or both sides feel like they’re not giving enough. It’s an unfortunate cycle. Ultimately, neither side is healthy, but I’m personally grateful I lean towards the Overly Giving side.
Signs you are Overly Giving (aka a Give-o-holic):
- You treat others way better than you treat yourself
- You can’t say no
- You get taken advantage of
- You feel guilt when people do something nice for you
- You want to hide from people for fear of being asked for more
- When groups ask for volunteers you always offer to help or feel incredibly guilty
- Even if you have a strong reason you can’t help someone, you feel really guilty for not helping them
- You become resentful from how unfair it feels with how much you give and how little you get in return
- You attract people who want to use you
- You can’t accept compliments
- You constantly feel like you’re not giving enough when good people say you’re giving a lot
- Other people feel guilt because of how much you do for them
- You refuse to ask for help or let others help you
- You give so much it hurts you and/or your loved ones emotionally, physically, or financially
- You constantly feel unappreciated
- You struggle with anxiety and depression from people pleasing
- People feel awkward around you because you’re too giving of compliments or gifts
- People say you try too hard to win others over
- You can’t go anywhere without bringing a gift and/or sending a thank you
- You feel like you need to earn people’s love
- You have another addiction like with drinking, drugs, video games, youtube, spending, work, busyness, etc. (this happens because you need help to bottle up the problems overly giving causes)
You might be wondering: “Chad, did you research that list?” Nope. It’s all stuff I’ve dealt with in my life and the patterns I see in a lot of my clients. Isn’t it great being screwed up? You can learn so much.
It might be helpful for overly giving people to know that scientifically it has been proven that you are more likely to make friends asking for a favour than doing a favour because doing a favour can be brushed off and unappreciated. Meanwhile, doing the favour you have to convince yourself you like the person enough to help them. Plus, helping the other person is empowering, so letting people help you can be a gift.
This week may you consider what it means for you to be giving to a point.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people