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.