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When Giving Hurts

Give from Balanced Care

Why do we give? We give because we love people and we want to see happiness and joy on their faces. We give because it helps us to feel connected and have a sense of belonging.


How does something that starts out so wonderful often end causing so much pain?


To understand why giving often ends up in hurt and pain, let’s take a deeper dive into what the source of giving actually is – and that is care. We give because we care.


What does it mean to care? Oddly, in our culture care is often understood as synonymous with stress. We worry about our children “because we care.” We’re anxious about our work “because we care about doing a good job.” We’re frustrated when our partners don’t clean up “because we care about a clean house.” There’s so much painful stress being passed around all in the name of care!


When you add stressful emotions such as worry, overwhelm and frustration to your care, it is called Overcare. It’s a simple equation. Care + Stressful Emotions = Overcare.

When parents work hard to prevent their children from feeling the normal lumps and bumps in life, they’re called overprotective. This is a form of Overcare. Parents care so much that they try and insulate their children from suffering. In the short term this makes everyone happy. In the long term it does a disservice to children who are unprepared for the hardships that will surely come their way in life.


When you withhold information from your partner and defer telling him or her that you are unhappy in the relationship (because you don’t want to hurt their feelings) this is a form of Overcare that I call Emotional Caretaking™. Emotional Caretaking is any time you allow yourself to become entangled in another person’s emotions or business, even when it comes at a cost to your well-being, purpose and life.


When you choose to protect your partner from the truth, you are taking responsibility for his or her emotions. You get the short-term relief of avoiding a hard conversation. In the long term you risk hurting your partner far more deeply. Why? There are only two possible roads to travel when you withhold the truth. You will either distance yourself from your partner because you are unhappy (confusing and hurting him or her); or you will eventually tell the truth and your partner will feel betrayed by the lies you told in the past.


What starts out with good intentions – giving your partner a break and not making them feel bad, ends up causing rifts that may never heal.

Overcare and Emotional Caretaking happen at work too. You care deeply about being a co-operative, collaborative person. You say “yes” as often as you can, giving your time and resources to those in need. A work colleague asks you to take on an important project, one that will require substantial work on the weekend. You need to say “no” if you are to honor the commitments you have already made to your family.


The anxiety you feel at the thought of saying “no” to your colleague (and therefore appearing “un-cooperative”) causes you to agree to take on the project. In this situation your care to be cooperative, plus your anxiety, resulted in you making an Overcare decision. You lose every which way. Your family will be quite rightly upset with you, and you will most likely end up tired and resentful with work. All because your healthy care to cooperate turned into stressful care.


Giving hurts when giving comes from Overcare. To find balance and end all the hurt you must return to true care, care without stress. It means giving without guilt, fear, anxiety, frustration and overwhelm.

How do you know if you are giving from true care or from Overcare? Simple. You know by how you feel. True care feels good. It feeds back information into your body that results in warmth and tenderness in your heart. Overcare feels bad. It’s that knot in your belly or the tension in your chest.


Overcare is a physiological state. This cannot be emphasized strongly enough. Your brain and your body are feeding on stress. To return to the balance of true care you must shift your body out of stress and back into a positive, coherent state. (Click here to listen to my six-minute podcast and learn how to get coherent.)


Once you return to a calm state, ask yourself, “What would balanced care look like?” Balanced care is care for the whole, which means everyone and includes you. With your work colleague, balanced care might have you offer to be on call if anyone has questions while you firmly say no to taking the lead on the project. With children balanced care would be to protect your child while allowing for age appropriate challenges.


Giving hurts when we hurt while we are giving.

It’s important that we stop deceiving ourselves. If we are giving only because we feel guilty or if we are giving because we are afraid of being rejected, we are giving for the wrong reasons. It’s time to get coherent and ask your heart for an intelligent understanding of the situation. Your heart will guide you to find balanced care.


First get coherent and identify your true care. For example, your true care might be, “I care about being loving with my partner.” (Notice that there is no stress in that statement.) Second, ask your heart what balanced care would look like in this situation. Listen quietly for the answer. Your heart may guide you to have an honest conversation with your partner or your heart might tell you to get connected first and have some fun together. Be open. When it comes to balanced care there are no cookie cutter answers.


Once your heart guides you to balanced care, get coherent again to help you avoid Emotional Caretaking. It’s not your job to fix someone else’s disappointment with your choices or make everything feel good. Stay coherent and love them, which is the best gift you can give them – and you!

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Anne Marie Clear is a Speaker, Trainer, and Coach. She has worked with leaders and world-class scientists for over twenty years in the areas of stress management, living from true authenticity, and building lasting relationships. 

Anne Marie Clear

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