“To give and not expect anything in return; to give for no special time or season; to give, not for any particular recognition; to give, not for a substantial tax refund; to give for the sake of giving — often just between giver and receiver — has a life of its own — an elevated one.” ~Glaceta Honeyghan
They say there are no selfless acts, because when you do something nice for someone else, you get (at the very least) a warm fuzzy feeling–but there’s a difference between benefiting from “good karma” and benefiting because you only help people with conditions attached.
Earlier this month, a woman I know told me that she couldn’t afford to buy school supplies for her kids. As a single mom who was unemployed, she just didn’t have the money. She had done everything she could to try to procure the things her kids needed for school–even called several charity groups in the area for help, but she got nowhere.
So, I did what anyone would do–I offered to buy her kids the things they needed to start school.
She was grateful, and that made me feel good. She insisted that she pay me back, but I kept telling her it wasn’t necessary. I knew she couldn’t afford to do it, and I didn’t offer to help because I expected anything in return.
I offered to help because I could afford to help, because I care about this person and her kids–and because I have been helped myself along the way. No strings attached.
She felt so strongly about giving back that she came over and helped me with some things around the house, which was appreciated but again, not necessary.
When Strings Are Attached
I have been lucky in my life to have supportive people around me, and when I’ve fallen in the past, they’ve helped me get back on my feet. I’ve always felt grateful for those people and the help they offered me in my times of need.
But in some cases, there were strings attached–like, if I help you, you have to agree to do what I want. Whether the giver expects money, love, support or something else in return, these “strings” can cause a lot of stress and negative energy for both parties.
Dawn over at Frugal Life offers a perfect example of this–a friend of hers offered her a monetary gift, but when Dawn said she wanted to spend the money on a bill, her friend told her that she needed to spend it on something nice for herself instead.
“I was a little upset that she had changed the ‘rule’ on the ‘gift’ and now it came with a condition,” Dawn writes. “She might as well just keep the money and use it on herself. Well, that wasn’t a good response and things escalated into a war of words–me accusing her of being materialistic and having a spend, spend mentality; and she accusing me of being tight fisted and not having any fun.”
See what I mean? Bad energy for all involved.
Pay It Forward Instead
As for me, I work hard to avoid attaching strings to any generosities I extend to my family or friends. It is human nature to expect something in return, of course, so I have to be very intentional about it. When people insist on “repaying my kindness,” I simply ask them to pay it forward–because for me, that’s the best gift they could offer.
As I said before, I have been helped along the way by many kind people, both personally and professionally–and that’s why I help people whenever I can–to pay it forward.
How to Give Without Attaching Strings
It’s simple: only give what you can afford to spare, and don’t expect anything in return from the recipient of your gift. You can, however, expect to feel great when you do this–which makes your energy and general vibration more positive. That, in itself, can bring more good things into your life.
When you give with strings attached, you’re only setting yourself up for failure. Even if you get what you expect from the person you help, it won’t be because that person really wants to give it to you–it will be because he or she feels obligated to do so. And that, my friends, doesn’t feel good to anyone.
So, next time you help someone, do it without expectations, without “strings” attached, even if your human nature urges you to do otherwise. You won’t regret it.
Have you been the giver or receiver of gifts with strings attached? Tell me in the comments!
Angela Atkinson is a Certified Life Coach and the author of more than 20 books on narcissism, narcissistic abuse recovery and related topics. A recognized expert on narcissism and narcissistic personality disorder who has studied and written extensively on narcissistic relationships since 2006, Atkinson was inspired to begin her work as a result of having survived toxic relationships of her own.
Atkinson offers trauma-informed coaching and has certifications in life coaching, level 2 therapeutic model, CBT coaching, integrative wellness coaching, and NLP. She is a certified trauma support coach and certified family trauma professional. She also has a professional PTSD counseling certification. Her mission is to help those who have experienced the emotional and mental devastation that comes with narcissistic abuse in these incredibly toxic relationships to (re)discover their true selves, stop the gaslighting and manipulation and move forward into their genuine desires – into a life that is exactly what they choose for themselves.
Along with her solution-focused life coaching experience, Atkinson’s previous career in journalism and research helps her to offer both accurate and understandable information for survivors of abuse in a simple-to-understand way that helps to increase awareness in the narcissistic abuse recovery community. Atkinson founded QueenBeeing.com Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support, the SPANily Narcissistic Abuse Recovery Support Groups and the Life Makeover Academy. In her life coaching practice, Atkinson’s clients enjoy her personalized approach that allows and encourages them to become the best possible versions of themselves and to succeed in doing what they love most. She offers individual and group coaching for victims and survivors of narcissistic abuse at NarcissisticAbuseRecovery.Online and NarcissismSupportCoach.com.