You know that to give is a virtuous act, so why does generosity often leave you feeling that you’re taken advantage of and underappreciated? Such an attitude of victimization can become a large burden, however, you have the ability to take charge of this behavior and transform it into natural and authentic generosity—the kind that will inspire the gratitude and appreciation you deserve. So, why choose to wear your victim hat? Instead, empower yourself with pure and honest giving.
Exhausted again, you’ve spent another week at work taking on extra responsibilities—always the one to take that late call as others head home. You’re disappointed when no stream of praise from your co-workers or boss follows. At home, you prepare an elaborate meal, but your family hurries through dinner without acknowledgement. Then, you give up your weekend camping trip to spend Saturday helping a friend move into a new apartment, and she fails to show the gratitude and appreciation you expected. Doesn’t anyone see how hard you’re working? Wouldn’t it be nice if someone did something for you for a change? You feel diminished, as if your time and effort aren’t worth as much as anyone else’s. Your response is likely something like this: “No one truly appreciates me. I do so much for everyone, and get nothing in return.” You feel burdened and drained, as if you’re constantly emptying your personal resources with no chance of replenishment. If this sounds familiar, you may also find that the pattern continues—a sense of obligation drives you to run yourself ragged in service to others; the word “no” seems to be missing from your vocabulary.
Why do you keep this behavior up? You may hope that the beneficiaries of your kindness will start giving positive feedback, a sense of acknowledgement. Some display of gratitude would let you know that your efforts are appreciated, that you are valued. However, what you are actually missing is an understanding of the empowerment and growth you gain through giving itself. (Terribly significant rewards, aren’t they?) Without this recognition, you’ll continue to feel victimized by your generosity and quest for appreciation when generosity’s true nature is to elevate you.
For this reason, beware the martyr mentality because it will only unbalance you as you consistently give away your own power to nurture yourself and others. By looking for the extrinsic reward of doing things for others—for that constant what would we do without you response to you efforts—you lose the capacity to receive appreciation. This is an unfortunate end since there is such richness in the act of giving itself. If you fail to make this discovery, the thank yous and pats on the back you are offered hardly seem rewarding if you notice them at all. Think about it: can you actually recall the most recent thank you that you received? Were you honestly receptive to its value? Now recall a past display of appreciation that you truly valued. Was its reward in the actual thank you or in knowing that you had offered someone something truly meaningful? If your answer is the latter, you’ll realize that you didn’t actually require the external display of gratitude to experience appreciation—it was there at the moment of your generosity.
Make it a regular practice to evaluate why you give—whether it’s your time, physical effort, or material gifts. Consider, for example, the last time you participated in a volunteer or charitable activity: what prompted your participation? Did you do so out of a sense of duty? Did you expect direct and immediate appreciation? Perhaps you feel inadequate and undeserving of appreciation when you aren’t actively giving? Or, were you moved by a certain cause and felt compelled from your heart to offer help? Once you’ve made a giving act for which this last statement rings true, you’ve discovered the intrinsic reward of just being who we are and acting out of authentic generosity. In other words, we maintain our center and can access its great resources of love and generosity—invigorating and potent forces.
In order to achieve this attitude, how do we recognize authentic generosity? Consider this attitude: give because you choose to out of natural and authentic generosity and without expectation of return. Thus, this giving act is done freely; you maintain control over your actions and reward rather than relying on another’s response. Learn to say yes or no with love and appreciation. Accept that you don’t have to do it all—but do the things that are inspired by pure desire. You’ll discover a true sense of reward by becoming more in touch with the joy your giving actions bring to others. Appreciation then comes in the act of giving itself. Appreciate your ability to give and to brighten and aid the lives around you—after all, giving does increase appreciation, and the associated joy will inspire even more generosity. The rewards continue to grow and to multiply. Rather than emptying or running yourself down, you become enriched with each offering and cease to crave superficial recognition. To ensure that your acts are motivated by love rather than a desire for acknowledgement, examine what drives your generosity. If you learn that the act of giving itself will bring the greatest reward, then go forward with your generosity. On the other hand, if you find that you are after recognition, take the time to find an authentic way to give that will bring intrinsic fulfillment.
So, lose your victim hat for good and don’t spend another day waiting for others to show you appreciation! Once you experience true and authentic giving, you’ll liberate yourself from your need for outer validation and will be filled with your own self-generated appreciation—a liberation that will free you to experience the great love that lies in pure generosity. It’s far more powerful and enduring than any thank you you’ll ever receive.