When the sunshine is obscured by the clouds and there is an overcast across all things; life can feel dull. We may be disappointed in our mate, our family, our work, or simply life in general. People, places, and things are not living up to our expectations. We are used up! We have freely given and people have freely taken. We show up for someone we don’t particularly like. We do things to be thoughtful. We bite our tongue to be kind. We are neither the martyr nor the aggressor. We simply give from an unconditional place.
I think of my 84 year old grandmother, who scorns the children when she loses her keys, because she is sure they have taken them. The children ignore the barb and help her find them; which inevitably they always do. Rather than be thankful for the children’s help, she is sure they found the keys only because they were the ones who lost them! The children look at me with pleading eyes. I just remind them that great-grandmothers are special and how lucky they are to have someone so full of stories. They do understand and embody the selfless acts we all can unconditionally choose.
Why not just be selfish and say no? Why not just do whatever we want and be the taker? How do we create balance between being a taker and being a martyr. If we say yes, but really want to say no, then we are likely to be bitter. If we say no, when it would be thoughtful to say yes, then we are being self absorbed. In both cases we are lacking the inner self reflection to consciously choose a higher path.
Some people show up as ‘takers’ and some ‘givers’. Those of us who are givers often struggle to say no. Those of us who are takers often struggle to say yes. I lean more towards the ‘giver’, until I’ve had enough. Then I withdraw from everyone and they get nothing! They can do their own work, figure out their own problems or find someone else to carry the lions share of work. As with most humans though, I can and have been in both roles, if I’m being completely honest with myself.
Takers often have temper tantrums when givers withdraw, because we know it means more work for us. We are often rather skilled at getting those around us to do the work. It’s truly an art to watch a taker in motion direct everyone around them. We are often gregarious, charming or flattering, as long as others are bending to our will. Watch out when the actors fail to perform to our expectations! We can be vicious, withdrawn, pouty, or play the martyr! We often have an arsenal of ‘characters’ at our disposal to get our own way! This can be annoying if our motives are altruistic and it can be abusive and toxic if our motives are nefarious.
Contrast this with great leadership! There are some great leaders who are skilled at bringing out the best in others. They bring out the best of others’ work ethic. They are the first to jump in whenever the team needs extra support. This type of leader is often more likely to have a loyal team around them. Their team wants to please because they believe in leadership. They feel valued, they are given credit for their work, appreciated for their contribution, and as a result they push themselves to be their very best!
Takers often have a team of malcontents around them who are often negative and immature. Takers are not usually able to attract and keep quality individuals and if they do have long-term followers they follow with bitterness and resentment. Takers often attract wounded birds that take a tremendous amount of energy to manage. Givers as leaders are usually taken advantage of. The team often takes liberties and lacks respect. They leave leadership hanging without thought or care.
We see these same patterns play out in our families with our spouses. We see this play out with our children and the children of others. Those children who roll their eyes and run all over the parents who are unwilling or unable to give clear direction. We see thwarted and withdrawn children who are raised by takers, narcissists, and control freaks. They are either deeply bitter or overly dependent, unable to make their own decisions and develop true autonomy.
Tuning in to my internal barometer and reflecting on my energy level helps me strive for balance. Do I need to pull my energy in and focus on my own well-being? Am I being the little tyrant and do I need to open up and share, even though I’m not in a ‘sharing mood’? The positive impact this has on my children, my family and in the workplace is immediately evident. It helps keep the various units in a harmonious rhythm. When there is an overcast across all things, it’s a time to rest. It’s a time to motor down and just allow those doldrum emotions to hang in the air. We can just sit there with those uncomfortable feelings and trust they will pass. Maybe we can say ‘yes’ to be thoughtful when we feel petulant or maybe we can say ‘no’ when out of obligation or guilt we want to say ‘yes’. Maybe we rest when we want to push too hard and push harder when we have drifted into laziness.