My mom was a generous person. She would give to others in a big way—almost to the point of martyrdom.
For example, when family would come into town for the holidays, she’d spend all day cooking, cleaning and doing all sorts of other things she assumed we wanted or needed. When we would get home from doing whatever fun (or not-so-fun) activities we were doing, if we didn’t immediately shower her with profuse thanks, love and affection, we’d be met with severe anger and the silent treatment.
She’d say, “While you guys were out doing X, Y and Z, I’ve been home slaving over A, B and C! And this is the thanks I get?”
When you apply my mom’s behavior to The Angry Therapist John Kim‘s “Take to Give” concept, she was taking—rather than giving. By having the expectation that we would immediately praise her, she wasn’t giving in the way she thought. Per Kim’s perspective,
“Genuine giving means giving without conditions.”
In these situations with my mother, I was always taken aback, confused and guilted into thanking her and letting her know how wonderful she was. But honestly, when forced to show her affection in that way—at that time—it was truly disingenuous. And to be frank, we never asked her to do any of those things for us.
Often, I would have preferred that she didn’t do them, because I had something else in mind. Looking at it now, I realize this is likely why I didn’t jump to thank her in the first place—before she got angry with me.
I read an article recently that stated something like, “When women help ‘grown-a** men’ with their responsibilities without asking for their permission, it is an act of aggression—essentially saying to him you don’t believe he’s capable of taking care of his own needs.”
I thought I was caring for my ex’s needs as an act of love and nurturing when I helped him with his laundry, housekeeping and meal prep. But after assessing those earlier events with my mother, it hits me that more than likely, I behaved just like my mom when it came to giving to my exes and my son.
Certainly, I want to be appreciated for the things I do. However, I want the appreciation to be natural and loving—not forced because I’m angry and I gave without permission and with an expectation of getting something in return.
These days, I’m more cautious about what and how I give.
I’m careful not to give from a place of looking for validation. I must give freely and with zero expectations. Sometimes when I evaluate the circumstances, I choose not to give where I may have given in the past. Most often, I still give (it’s what I do). The difference now is that I don’t allow myself to say a single word about anything I’ve given. It’s hard. Very hard. Especially when the things I do go unnoticed. At that point I must remind myself that I gave from a place of love, not one of looking for validation, so the acknowledgement is unnecessary.
I realize now how my giving used to be so tied to my old habit of feeling like I had to earn love—and, even deeper, like I had to earn a right to exist in this world.
I now know that existing in this world in is my birthright. God gave it to me at conception, even though my parents didn’t plan it.
And love? I am love, whether others choose to recognize it or not.
Author: Melissa Drake
Image: James Vaughan/Flickr
Editor: Toby Israel