I’ve become painfully aware of late, that this world is comprised of givers and takers. I suppose there may be another third group, that is more balanced but then again, maybe not.
I don’t know if it’s always been this way and I just never really noticed or if it’s something that has evolved over the last couple of decades but it seems more pronounced these days, more obvious. And it seems to me, that the takers are gaining on us.
Take something as simple as courtesy on the road. We’ve all heard of rules of the road (or at least, I hope we’ve all heard of them) and it isn’t so much about traffic laws as it is courtesy. You let another driver in when they’re stuck trying to get out of driveway, wave someone through ahead of you even if you have the right of way, or in the reverse, tip your hat, nod your head or wave or something if another driver has done the same for you. It’s not a big deal, but it makes a difference.
I’ve literally had people try to run me off the road rather than yield to my merging into a lane, even when I had the right of way. Everday, as I stop at a stop sign and another driver arrives at the same time, that driver only pauses and when they see I’m actually stopping, just slide through the stop without so much as a blink. The list is endless – and really this post isn’t about how other people drive.
It’s more about the attitude. It is as though there are some people out there who just feel they are entitled to anything and everything they get. They don’t feel obliged in any way to return the favor. And sometimes, they seem to expect it. The co-worker who expects you to cover their lunch because they haven’t the money but wouldn’t dream of lending you a five-spot. The friend who calls you at all hours to cry on your shoulder, who borrows clothes and never returns them, who always shows up at your house around dinnertime but who is often busy when you need something. The boss who expects to be able to call you on your day off to discuss some business issue but doesn’t think they should pay you, and who gets uptight if you dare to call them at home. The parent who demands you demonstrate your love to them constantly but can’t help you out when you’re in need or trouble.
And I suppose the givers are duplicitous in these acts because they cooperate. They give. They are happy to help out. Don’t have the heart to hang up on a sobbing friend, or deny lunch to them. Will bend over backwards to show their love and nurture parents, children and spouses. Because they are givers. That is the way they are wired. Right? So, why shouldn’t they be taken advantage of? Why shouldn’t the takers take what the givers give? It’s the way the food chain works, isn’t it?
Is it? I wonder. I’ve had a few serious takers in my life. And there is no pleasing them. No matter what you do for them it isn’t enough. No matter how hard you try it just isn’t hard enough. No matter how much you give they still seem to need more. You could literally have a personality transplant and remake yourself according to their specs and still be wrong. It’s exhausting.
And I’ve found whenever I go through a particularly exhausting period in my life that I am surrounded by these folks. I am swarming with them. I am the proverbial puppet on a string. My life becomes dedicated to doing for them and going without. And I have to ask myself why? Why the hell do I do it? What puts me in that place? Is it just my general good nature, am I too nice, care too much, just want people to like me? I suppose it is all of the above and none of the above. I mean, how does one find the balance? I don’t really like fighting back, so to speak. It doesn’t do anything for me personally – truth be told I don’t really like conflict. I like life to be easy going and fun. I don’t want to be an accountant, forever tallying what others owe me or I them. Or scolding people for taking advantage either of me or others. It’s just not my thing.
I suppose in the long run my solution is to just cut my losses and move on – it’s not easy though. In fact, it’s damned hard – everyone seems connected in one way or another. That 6 degrees of separation thing, you know? In the end, I just end up putting up with it. Try not to get too god-awful sucked dry of life and resources and look for better friends – sometimes with success, sometimes not.
How about you? What do you do with these people? I’m curious what everyone else’s take is on this.