Bleeding to Death

By Greg Baer M.D.

January 30, 2014

We’ve all known people who endlessly complain that we haven’t done enough for them. It doesn’t matter to them if we’re doing our best. They still want more, and then we feel guilty for not satisfying their needs or demands.

Why would we feel guilty for doing out best? Because all during our childhoods, our parents and others taught us that we are responsible for the feelings of others. They didn’t mean to do it, but they still did. Each time they scowled or growled following some action on our part, they taught us — almost always unintentionally — that their feelings were CAUSED by US. In short, we learned that we were RESPONSIBLE for the feelings of others, whether we were doing our best or not.

How can we get over this false belief? Perhaps a metaphor could help. There is a nationwide shortage of blood, to the point that in many cities elective surgeries are being canceled for lack of blood. As a person of conscience, should I not feel obligated to give all my blood for this noble cause? Should that not be my duty? Sure, medical advice is not to give more than a pint of blood every six weeks, but how could I live with the guilt of possibly allowing people to die for a lack of the blood I have?

It’s obvious, isn’t it, that if I give all my blood, two negative effects will result: First, I die; second, I will no longer be able to give blood to anyone. So giving too much blood actually turns out to be LESS responsible and loving than giving a lesser — and more reasonable — amount.

Giving too much blood can be quite similar to giving others too much of anything. If someone demands a great deal of my time, attention, and energy, and if I comply, it’s likely that I’ll eventually arrive at a point where continued giving will sap my energy and make me useless to myself or others — much as occurs with giving too much blood.

Regrettably, we tend to give in to the demands of others, especially the louder they whine. Why? First, as already mentioned, we respond to the training of a lifetime, feeling an inappropriate guilt for the feelings of others. We are stuck in the belief that if people around us are unhappy, in some way it must be our fault, or at least our responsibility to correct it. After all, essentially the whole world has this belief, so who are we to oppose it?

The second reason we tend to give in to the demands of others is that we lack faith. We don't trust that people — including us — will be happier if they are required to be responsible for how they feel. We think that people in pain have to be saved or rescued. They don’t. In fact, growth requires struggle and pain, so if we take responsibility for the feelings of others, we weaken or even cripple them.

Give to people the time, energy, and love you can give without becoming weakened yourself, just as you would give blood only every six weeks. It’s the healthy way to live — for you and for them.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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