There are many people in the world who confuse love with helping people. Not that the two can’t go hand-in-hand. They do, and they should. But at what point does the ‘helping’ people turn into being used? There is a very fine line between being loving and becoming an enabler. So if you find yourself feeling like other people are just sucking the life out of you without giving anything in return, take a moment to look at your actions.
For example, I know a family who is going through a difficult time. Their adult child has gotten into trouble with the law and is currently in jail. And now the adult child is expecting her parents to not only bail her out of jail, but also to pay for a good lawyer so she doesn’t have to spend 3-15 years in prison. And they probably will. Meanwhile, I’m sitting here on the outside thinking, “This is how she got there. No one has ever told her ‘no’ – she has never had any consequences to her actions. She has a sense of entitlement and didn’t appreciate anything they did for her.” I know that may sound harsh, but I know the family well enough to be pretty confident that I’m right. And now the poor family is facing selling their house and/or downsizing just to afford her impending legal fees.
So that got me thinking about: (1) Personal responsibility and (2) Being used.
This story as an extreme example of these two very common problems. If other people don’t take personal responsibility and expect you to take up their slack, then in my opinion, you are being used. Sure, it’s nice for us to help people out and do things we don’t have to do just because we are being helpful and loving. That’s beautiful. But when it be comes a habit, a pattern, and an expectation from the other person, then I think that turns into being used.
So if you suddenly discover that you are getting used, what can you do to stop it? Well, it’s actually pretty simple. Here are 5 things you can do:
1. Say NO.
I know you’re thinking, “Duh. Thanks for that secret, unknown piece of information.” Yes, it’s obvious. But is it easily done by a lot of people? NO!!! Put yourself first. You don’t have to say yes to everything. Only say yes if it feels right and good.
2. Tell them why you are saying “no.”
Usually, when you explain things, people will have a better chance of understanding and agreeing with you. Even if they don’t agree with you, at least they know that you have your reasons and you’re not just saying no to be mean.
3. Be nice but firm in telling them no.
You don’t have to go off on a rampage and tell them what a selfish loser they are. You can tell them that you hope they get what they need, but you are not the person who will provide it for them. Wish them luck! (with sincerity … not in a nasty way).
4. Stick with your ‘no’ – don’t change your mind.
Don’t ever, ever, ever go back on your ‘no!’ If you do, they won’t ever believe you again when you say no. Say it and mean it!! This is one of the most difficult parts for most people. But you can do it!!
5. Tell them that you will have a better relationship because you say no. You will not resent them anymore.
They may not know that you have had resentment building up inside of you because of their actions. So tell them!! And let them know that this is a blessing in disguise. From now on, you will be able to let go of the resentment and have a much happier, honest relationship with them because you have drawn your boundaries.
If you don’t take these actions to stop getting used, then you have no one to blame but yourself. As the saying goes, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me!”
The real message here is to love yourself enough to say “I refuse to let you use me one more second!!” Keep in mind that you will be doing them a spiritual favor by teaching them that they need to give and not just take.
Drawing the line and standing your ground is not selfish. It is called self-love. In fact, it’s the tough-love that everyone needs in the long run.