Unselfish vs being taken advantage of

Responding to Emylou from Sacrifice: Where’s the Balance

What is the difference between being unselfish and being taken advantage of and walked all over?

Sometimes, I find myself so scared of being abused and misused, that I try to keep a distance. People say I’m so passionate and generous with my time and my energy. What they don’t know is that I keep certain parts of myself to myself, because I’m scared. I’m scared of exactly that: being taken advantage of.

Now lets be honest, not everyone on the streets is malicious and will seize every opportunity and take advantage of anyone who strolls along. But I’m not going to lie, I know that when I give, there are different levels.

I can give time and money, to charity, to church, to mentoring, to teaching. But I can be emotionally separated. But the next level, I can devote my heart to my work, with all my students and all my ministries and work and my romantic relationships and friendships, I put my heart in. I breathe it and am passionate about it. So when I give, it’s no longer just time and money and effort, but its attached with love and heart and intensity. And now, everything is at higher stakes. Then we can, if we even dare to imagine, go to another level, where we live and exchange. So that its no longer a one way street where we only give, but we exchange. So now we allow ourselves to reveal our needs and dependencies and vulnerabilities. We give, but we are humble and admit that we have weaknesses, and we no longer give because “I’m more privileged, or I’m older, or I’m an alum, or This is my job.”  I give because I want to, but not because I have anything to give. Instead, I have needs and pain and realities, too. Suddenly, we’re no longer opaque, or even translucent, but transparent. Stakes are high, because now, the receiver is also our giver, and they know our weaknesses and pains, and they suddenly have a say, and even, gasp, control.

But how scary is that? And is that wise? In an ideal world, that would be bliss. But sometimes there’s abuse, sometimes there’s pain and hurt and manipulation and mistreatment. Sometimes the hurt comes in an accidental form, other times, its malicious.

Who of us will walk out in to the cold night without a jacket? or at least some layer of protection? Who of us will go into land of pain and suffering without a layer protection? So when we encounter, the pain and suffering won’t pierce us and destroy us along the way?

Or perhaps that’s what we’re called to do? To encounter that pain and suffering and brokenness and contrite spirits?

But then, are we taking the burdens that were never meant to be for us to carry? It says give our burdens to Christ, not bring on the burdens onto ourselves. So when people pile their pain and suffering and stress and all the burdens and baggage on us, are we just being unselfish and considerate and loving? Or are we submitting ourselves to a task that was never meant to be ours? So not only hurting ourselves, but hurting them? Maybe we’re trying to play God and Savior for the other person?

Where is that line between unselfish/self-sacrificing and being taken advantage of/taking whats not our to take/playing God?


One thought on “Unselfish vs being taken advantage of

  1. Thanks for the response. 🙂 I struggle with finding the line between unselfish/self-sacrificing and being taken advantage of too. I am also scared to appear vulnerable because I may be taken advantage of. But, at the same time, I wonder if I am not living up to my potential if I don’t make myself vulnerable. I guess, I should learn to get out of my comfort zone more.

    I am glad I found your blog while I was looking for information for my articles. Gave me something to think about.


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