You may find it strange that I want to define the act of giving. I mean hello, it was just the holidays, right? Don’t we all give until our hearts (or our wallets) can practically give no more?
Well yes, we do. Maybe you even feel like you give of yourself every single day until there’s practically nothing left. You cook, you clean, you run errands, you feed the kids, you fix the problems, you listen to your spouse…so many of us give to the point of sacrifice. And the problem is, the person we are sacrificing is ourselves.
I want to focus today on the boundaries between giving vs. sacrificing and how we can give intentionally and with purpose so that we can fill ourselves up, rather than feel exhausted and empty each day.
Giving is the act of providing to another, without selfish thought on your part. It is done freely and lovingly, without expecting reciprocation or anything else in return. Giving is selfless. It involves putting others before yourself.
The phrase to “give,” is such a common word in our language, that we hardly stop to ask ourselves if we are using it appropriately. And I don’t say this because I’m conducting a grammar lesson, but because this is a morality check on our actions.
Are you giving of yourself, freely and lovingly to others, without wanting things in return or (as many marriages do) keeping score?
Most of us run into problems with other people in our lives because our version of giving begins to sour when we are not happy in our relationships. In this way, our acts of service begin to poison us, and we start doing other things like keeping score with our spouse (I’ve cooked and cleaned, but you’ve done nothing), expecting things in return or becoming a different version of ourselves to make others happy. But in this way, we are subconsciously always hoping or expecting that other person to change or do things for us as well. And if this response doesn’t happen, the gift we brought to the relationship, feels more like a sacrifice.
The moment we feel as if we are sacrificing for others is the moment we begin to experience anger and resentment in our relationships.
Sacrifice can be a powerful word, but it is never a word that I ever want to use when describing my relationships. Sacrifice implies that we are giving up something that we value for someone else. In this case, it comes from an act of bitterness or false expectations. It can also incite feelings of lack, scarcity, and being let down. When it comes to relationships, especially in marriage, it is a non-loving way of participating in your relationship.
If you are coming from the lens of sacrificing, you will end up feeling drained, exhausted, and empty AF. It is hard to get out of this mindset because you feel as if you’ve given 100% of you, and there’s nothing left to give. And what will result from this, is feeling like the victim in the relationship. And we all know that once you start playing the victim, it is bloody hard to get out of the crappy mindset.
Evaluate Your Relationship With Yourself
Sometimes, we get so busy counting all of the ways we sacrifice for others, that we feel as if we have no time for ourselves. I see this especially with women who use the phrase “I’m too busy,” as an automatic answer to any question.
“Do you want to have lunch with me?”
“I’m too busy.”
“Would you like to go on a double date together with our husbands?”
“Can’t, I’m too busy with the kid’s activities.”
“Can we grab a coffee?”
“Sorry, I have too much on my plate. I’ve got three kids to care for, so I have no time.”
When was the last time you gifted “me” time to yourself, without feeling guilty?
Your relationship with yourself is just as important, if not more than with those around you. Because if you can come from a place of peace and feeling fulfilled, you can learn to serve better those you love most, without feeling the bitterness or anxiety of the sacrifice.
As you go about your day, try shifting your mindset to one of giving. Instead of feeling pulled in a million directions, analyze each activity throughout your day and ask yourself, “How I can turn this into an act of service, for both myself and others?”
Your perspective of how you spend your time will begin to go from exhausted to exuberant for life.
Evaluate Your Relationship With Others
Giving vs. sacrificing has been a big theme for me in my marriage to Cory. When we first started dating, I took a substantial risk and moved two states away from my home and family and friends, to start a brand new life so that Cory and I could stay together. The move was a huge culture shock for me, and I struggled greatly with balancing my dreams and the independent woman that I was, with a person that was willing to give up everything she knew “just for a guy.” While initially, the move was exciting and I felt like I was giving of myself to make this relationship work, over time as I struggled to find a place in Michigan, this act of service began to sour in my mind, and my gift became a sacrifice.
I would think things like “Doesn’t he know or appreciate what I’ve done for him??!!” This my friends is coming from a sacrifice mindset, instead of one of giving. And to be honest, this simple switch can change everything about your marriage or your other relationships.
Any time you find yourself “keeping score” with someone you love, it’s time to check yourself and question, are you coming from a place of gifting or sacrificing?
The only way I was able to pull myself out from feeling like I was the victim – as if I had sacrificed my happiness – was by pivoting out of my past pain and choosing to give instead of sacrifice. I went from feeling depressed to feeling in love with life and my relationship.
Today’s action steps are going to help you check your mental attitude by assessing whether you are living in a giving or sacrificing state. I am excited about this challenge, because this simple switch in my mind, has helped my marriage solve some of our biggest grievances and come into more understanding with each other.
- So often, we let the pain of feeling unfulfilled or unloved from others dictate how we perceive our relationships with others. Start first, by writing a list of all the activities you do for those you love most in your life. Don’t worry; this isn’t a complain sesh!
- Now look back through your list and ask yourself, with each task, are you truly giving of yourself (without blame) or are you sacrificing?
- If you are feeling more like the sacrificial lamb here, can you pivot your mindset so that you are coming from a giving mentality instead? Try to find a positive perspective in all that you do. Be grateful for everything that your act of service brings to your life and others.