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Am I Giving Too Much?

Am I Giving Too Much?


Dear Rachel,

I generally enjoy giving, but a couple of my close family members don’t seem to ever be satisfied with how much or what I give. Either they want more or they want something different. All the joy thatI feel taken for granted comes with giving is drained away from me by their reactions. I feel taken for granted, unappreciated and exhausted! I realize that giving is a laudable Jewish activity, but I’m tired and resentful, and have no desire to do anything for these family members anymore.

What can I do?


Dear Giver,

It is true that Judaism considers giving to be a laudable activity. But, like all mitzvahs, giving is defined by parameters: when, what and how much. Whether the mitzvah is giving donations to the Temple, showing respect for parents or giving alms to the poor, there are instructionsGiving and receiving has to be reciprocal for when and how much to give.

Some people will continue to take as long as you continue to give to them. That’s not good for the giver, who becomes exhausted and resentful, or for the receiver, who does not learn self-sufficiency, independence and gratitude.

Giving and receiving also has to be reciprocal in relationships, so that everyone learns how to give and how to receive graciously. Receiving is also a form of giving.

Of course, there are relationships that are mostly one-directional. Think about a mother and her children. But even then, the children eventually grow up and start giving back, especially if attitudes of giving, appreciation and responsibility have been modeled for them.

So I would say that the first thing to do would be to step back and objectively evaluate the giving/receiving dynamic in your family and how reciprocal it is, as well as how demanding it has been on you. Then take steps to change the dynamic for the better by doing one or all of the following:

  1. Set limits on your time, energy and other resources, and stick to those boundaries.
  2. Find ways to recharge your batteries, such as getting a massage or going to an inspiring class.
  3. Model appreciation for the things you receive.
  4. Examine why you get upset when too many demands are made on you, and explain your reaction to the people who are dependent on you.
  5. Allocate responsibilities to family members so that there’s less pressure on you.
  6. Teach skills to family members so they are more self-sufficient and not dependent on you. Be sure not to judge or criticize when they exercise this independence.
  7. Spend time with your family members, and take turns expressing gratitude for what others (and G‑d) have done for you.

There will still be times when you are called upon to give and you will not feel up to it. But knowing that you have the right—and even the obligation—to set limits on your giving will help you to do so.We all love to feel needed

Ultimately, when your family asks you to give more, they are actually trying to connect. The word for “love” in Hebrew, ahavah, is linked to the Aramaic word hav, which means “to give.”1 You grow to love someone when you give to them. And so, to create a loving family, you need to give the members of your family opportunities to give to you and to each other.

We all love to feel needed, but a mother’s job is to work herself out of a job, so that when she does give, it’s purely out of love rather than necessity.

I wish you luck in guiding your family members on the path to independence and gratitude, and towards experiencing the joy of giving so that you will be able to give with a full and loving heart.


See Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, Michtav Me’Eliyahu, vol. 1, Kuntres HaChesed, pp. 35–38.
Rosally Saltsman is a freelance writer originally from Montreal living in Israel. Click here to email Rosally.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Michele Mohrmann Beaufort, SC June 18, 2016

To Julie Dear this point I would say these people seem to be an ungrateful lot and it seems they do not really care for you personally...Sometimes we just have to say NO politely.
I’ve found it incredibly helpful to have go-to ways to just say no. I mostly say the “I’m already booked” strategy, because that is most often the reason I can’t do something. Here are some other tactics...
1. Vague but effective: “Thank you for asking, but that isn’t going to work out for me.”
2. Ask me later: “I want to do that, but I’m not available until April. Will you ask me again then?”
3. Let me hook you up: “I can’t do it, but I’ll bet Shelly can. I’ll ask her for you.”
4. Keep trying: “None of those dates work for me, but I would love to see you. Send me some more dates.”
5. Try my last minute strategy: “I can’t put anything else on my calendar this month.
6.Not No, But Not Yes: “Let me think about it, and I’ll get back to you.”
7. I’m “maxed out”: I sometimes need a ‘safety word’ for saying no. Reply

Julie J MA June 15, 2016

Excellent answers I have neighbors who constantly ask me for all kinds of favors, from rides every where to me running errands for them and even asking me to pay their bills. I help where and when I am able and I do love helping people but they really do take me for granted. Recently I was stricken with an illness, Baruch Hashem not life threatening but very painful. I told them about it and they still keep asking me to help them, not even asking how I am feeling Reply

Michele Beaufort, SC June 15, 2016

Thank you... Dear Rosally and Rachel ~ Thank you, Rosally, thank you for asking this question, and Rachel...thank you for your right on answer. There is a little book called Thank You Power, and even if you are the giver in most the book. It helps to understand how having an attitude of gratitude can empower one.
Blessings ~ Michele Reply

Avraham Australia June 15, 2016

WHEN GIVING CAN BECOME DAMAGING I like this article and feel, in part, I can relate this to a recent story. Recently, a family member of mine asked for a significant sum of money because they couldn't pay their rent - apparently. Normally, I would be inclined to help where I can. However, in this case I was not willing to help. Why? This particular family member is known to purchase and use excessive amounts of illegal drugs. The reason behind not being able to pay rent would most likely come down to either a) the rent money was spent on drugs or b) the money would be used to buy more drugs. This particular family member is known to the rest of the family as one who has a drug habit and is always asking for financial loans, rarely paying them back.

I could not allow myself to contribute to this member's habit by providing finances that I know are needed for this person's drug habit.

The point is, sometimes giving can send the wrong message or lesson; to abuse or depend on the charity they receive. Reply

s U.K. June 15, 2016

Giving HaShem is the greatest giver and is never spent. This is where humans can now appreciate how it feels to be taken for granted by the takers of this world.

I have found that takers will always latch on to a giver and when you stop giving they eventually go and latch on to someone else who is a giver.

Personally, I like to remain within the teaching of the Torah, give without regret (Deuteronomy) then thank HaShem for the blessing of being in a position to give. Reply

Raymond Bastarache NB Canada June 14, 2016

giving..receiving.... Unfortunately, we live in an unthankful generation...while some part of the world only have one meal a day, maybe only one meal every other day? While they are in a "survival mode" While we,in our prosperous condition seemed to covet all the fancies, dainties, latest gadgets available? and yet.. never quite satisfied? nor contented? to the giver nor to G-d who gives us all things richly to enjoy. Maybe, you could try this ..a lesson learned from our father? Every year at a joyous occasion each member of the family received a certain piece of money(the same amount for each four sibling)we as children, knew exactly how much? Dad, never changed the amount over the next 25 years? no more no less...thus we knew what to expect and never complained but looked forward to receiving it with an expression of great gratitude and thanksgivings. It solve a lot of squeamishness, embarrassments, confusions, discontentment Set yourself a "rule of thumb" and stick by it? don't give in to pressure. Reply

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