Dealing with People Who Take Advantage of Your Generosity
by Merryl Lentz
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You've gone out of your way for someone. Perhaps to lend a helping hand, perhaps to loan them money. But the helping hand is not shown appreciation, and the money is never repaid. They even get to the point where they expect you to pick up the tab, and conveniently forget their wallet, among other things. They have taken advantage of your generosity. How do you deal with this situation?
Giving isn't wrong, but the world is, unfortunately, filled with people who will see your good will as something to be taken advantage of, rather than appreciated, to the extent where it not only becomes harmful to you, but also to them. As the Bible says in Psalm 37:21, "The wicked borrow and do not repay, but the righteous give generously." When you give, it's because you want to, and ultimately, so that people can help themselves. This doesn't include taking advantage or mooching.
I have a friend -- we'll call her Anna -- who took on a roommate -- we'll call him Mark --who was supposed to maintain his job, help clean around the house, supposed to get food stamps and help with food. He had to be browbeaten into doing these things, and still, sometimes, he didn't do them at all. Mark was supposed to pay his keep every month, but it was always piecemeal never in full when Anna needed it to be. The last two months, he didn't pay her at all, and was asked to leave. Anna still tried to get the money owed, but Mark never acknowledged her requests. Mark had taken complete advantage of Anna's generosity.
One of the sharpest tools in the manipulator's toolbox is guilt, and they have it honed to a razor's edge. They have a host of reasons why you should continue being endlessly generous, from making you feel ashamed for not sharing your good fortune, to questioning whether you really are, in fact, the good friend that they thought you were. They'll lay on the guilt about all the rewards you've reaped for your hard work, and will even feel entitled to it. They'll turn the tables and lay blame on you for being tightfisted with your money.
If they didn't start taking advantage of your generosity from the beginning of the relationship, you may have unintentionally trained them to be this way. When you endlessly give to a manipulator, your generosity becomes a habit -- for them -- and they expect you to keep endlessly giving. In a sense, you've conditioned them to always receiving -- but never giving -- because you do it continuously. You must realize you have no obligation to those who never provide for themselves.
If this person can get you to feel guilty, they're booked on a free ride. Guilt trips often sound like this: "If you really cared about me, you'd do me this favor," "If you were more understanding, you'd help me out," and the ace in the hole, "If you were a true friend, you'd lend me the money."
Another tactic for inducing a guilt trip is telling you what you wouldn't do, such as, "I knew you'd never start dating him without telling me first." This implies that you won't make a single decision without obtaining the manipulator's opinion first. This behavior is used to send you into the realm of "should," instead of standing up for your own personal values.
Another form of manipulation of your generosity is an all-encompassing assumption statement communicating that they don't take you seriously or treat you as a whole person. Instead, they try superimposing how they'd like you to behave -- so that it benefits them, not you. They'll say things like, "I wish you'd understand how difficult it is for me, after all the things I've done for you." The trick in the assumption statement is that there is no question asked, because it causes the user to lose control of a situation.
In the arsenal of the user are also mind games of what they claim other people would do in the same situation. "Dick, Jane and Sally are the type of people who would gladly give me the money," is a statement that makes you appear stingy compared to just about everyone else -- even if you have a history of generosity. It implies that other people would act more appropriately than you -- and even that you're a bad person. Don't cave to this kind of trickery.
When a manipulator claims everything is unfair and pretends they're falling to pieces, they're really trying to play upon your sympathy. They'll exude a sense of helplessness to convince you to rescue them. They may have other people they can go to, but they choose you because your generosity is easy to take advantage of. They may say things like, "You're the only one I have to turn to for this money," or "I have no one else to turn to for this money but you." Beware of this form of using your generosity -- and your sympathy -- to their advantage.
Then there are the manipulators who'll resort to emotional outbursts in order to play dirty with your emotions. Because you're a generous person, you possibly are also a sensitive person, and instead of appreciating that sensitivity, the manipulator will perceive it as a weakness to use to their advantage. They may resort to a sob story, crying, bullying, or even throwing a tantrum to demonstrate how needy they supposedly are, and how insensitive you are to those needs. They're testing your boundaries, and may end up pushing them more in their favor that you would have liked, out of a sense of guilt.
Despite all of their external bravado, manipulators are actually very weak people who seek situations where they can be the one in power and in control. They will display more care and affection toward you than anyone else in order to attain your trust and assure that you're comfortable with them. This tactic makes you become dependent upon them, ensuring that you will give in to whatever they later demand.
Another manipulator's mind game is that they get you to the point where you're so accustomed to doing what they tell you to do that you willingly and agreeably do anything they ask of you, no matter how outrageous the demands.
One of the lowest tactics on the user's totem pole is utilizing love as a bargaining device. This type of manipulator may employ phrases such as, "If you loved me, you'd lend me the money," "I know you love me, so you'll give me this loan," and "Because I love you, I know you'll give me the money I need." These statements aren't based upon love at all. They're merely meant to trick you into doing what the manipulator wants from you -- again, playing upon your sense of guilt -- and misguided loyalty.
This type of behavior can happen between married couples, as well as between friends. When this form of trickery is used, the manipulator will try to make you feel indebted to them -- that you owe them something, and that if you don't provide it, you're somehow lacking in character.
When a manipulator has sucked your generosity dry, they will leave you and move on to another unsuspecting target. It's an unfortunate situation, but they're doing you a favor by getting out of your life.
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