I saw an interesting video recently about a guy who taped $1and $5 bills, and maybe a $10 or two, to his jacket and walked around with a sign that said, “Take what you need.”
Now, obviously, someone was videotaping the street interaction, and because the guy was wearing a microphone, you can hear his conversation as people read his sign, looked at him questioningly and then, hesitantly, took a few bills. All the while he would say to people, as he walked up and down the street, to…“Go ahead and take what you need.”
Nine out of 10 people would take a dollar or two and say, “I could use this for the subway or the bus,” and a few homeless people took a little more money (at his insistence) to buy a meal. All the while this guy is encouraging the homeless or elderly or whoever he is talking to, “Take a little more,” to which most did not because, as they said, “Someone else might need this gift.” Most everyone said thank you or something nice as they pocketed the money and looked at him with appreciation and gratitude, and then it happened.
A well-dressed man walked up, didn’t say a thing but started taking almost all the money off the guy’s jacket, to which the guy said, “Hey man, you don’t look like you need the money.” The guy grunted and replied, “It’s free money, right? Then I’m taking it,” and he did. He probably peeled off about $20+ quickly and selfishly, and I don’t think he even said thank you. On the video, it looks like he somewhat chided the Good Samaritan for being such a schmuck and he walked away, and you can see him stuffing the money in his nice overcoat with his fancy briefcase.
I don’t know what it is about that video that made me smile and then made me angry. It wasn’t my money, I don’t know the Good Samaritan nor did I know anyone who took a few dollars to buy a meal or a bus ticket, but that one guy–because he could–he did. The sign said “Take what you need,” not what you want. But he didn’t care! So, today, as you go about your business and I share my thoughts, I want to step out of my normal encouraging role to be a warning for some of you and a conscience for the rest of you.
Why? Because Givers Need to Set Limits, and because takers never do.
Some of you today give and give and give, and while that is wonderful, this year–because it’s a big year, for a lot of reasons and not just the presidential election–I’m asking you to set some limits.
The world is on the move and seemingly on fire in many places. Financial markets are teetering–up one day and plunging the next–and many people are coming dangerously close to letting fear rule their lives due the crimes against humanity that we are seeing almost daily.
I can appreciate your goodness and kindness and, please, I’m not asking you to stop, I’m simply asking that you–in this day and time–understand the wise words from the book of Matthew found in the Bible… “In the midst of wolves all around you – be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove…” Friend, setting limits is a balancing act. Tilt the scale in the wrong direction and you will be ground into dust by those who deem themselves above the rules of decorum and appropriateness.
Unfortunately, either they were not taught well or they choose to be the greedy, selfish, self-centered insects because that’s who they are. They have convinced themselves that there is only so much in this world, and they must take all since they bought into the marketplace make-believe world of scarcity and not abundance or plenty. The odd fact is the limit for so many today is not in the sky, but in their mind, and you and I can rarely change a limited mindset.
I believe you have an obligation to honor yourself because of your intrinsic value and self-worth. Friend, you must set limits on how you will allow others to treat you. Remember the old saying, people learn how to treat you based on what you accept from them. If you truly believed that you have value, wouldn’t you walk away from those people in your life who don’t recognize your worth?
I saw a quote that said, “Humble enough to know I’m not better than anybody & wise enough to know that I’m different from the rest.” When you are wise enough to know, you’ll tip the scales in the right direction.
You know that I often speak about the big idea that you need to set limits on how you allow others to speak to you (including family members) because words matter–they can heal or they can hurt, and, once said, they can never be taken back. Even the best of us who choose to forgive know it’s hard to forget because deep love or deep hate set things in motion in the heart that can never be reversed.–Fred Buechner
I believe it is important that you set limits on what you allow others to take from you, whether it be your time or your talent because givers need to set limits since takers never do. They will show no regard for your value. I love the quote, “Give the gift of absence to those who do not appreciate your presence.”
A lack of boundaries invites a lack of respect. By setting limits or boundaries, you will survive the fight and come out victorious in the end to continue to do the good deeds you are called to do for others; the key is what you are called to do, not what others demand you do for them.
So I mentioned that, today, I want to be a friendly warning for some of you who give too much and a conscience for the rest of you who take it all.
As you’re reading my words, some of you may be angry with me since I am calling out the takers of this world. If you fit what my words describe, I do understand that today I’m not your favorite person, but hear me when I say that I’d rather be a thorn in your side than let you continue down a stream that is pulling you away from the safety of the shore. I say this because you will eventually drown, and no one will be willing to risk their life to save you because, by your own actions, you have proven you’re not worthy.
I hear from people all the time–seriously all the time–who say to me that they deserve this or they merit that, or they should be given a break because they didn’t have … You can fill in the blank of all their issues of want. For most of these takers, they believe that everyone is at fault, including but not limited to parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches, pastors, friend, partners, spouses and children who didn’t love, appreciate or acknowledge them the way they wanted to be valued. So now they’re wild with demands towards family, friends and strangers as to what they think and demand they deserve, but I am here to tell you that, while some win in the short run of taking everything they can wrap their arms around, eventually most who live that lie of excess will die empty, hollow and purposeless, no matter what great building or monument or edifice to their ego they leave behind.
Why? Because no one likes a taker; no one respects a taker and no one will go to the mat to protect, defend or honor a taker. Your life, your choice. I understand that, but stop and think about this. When givers finally wise up and stop giving, there will be nothing for you to take, and then you will be staring at the bottom of empty and that will be the end of the line, leaving you with nothing–nada, nil.
I never believe it when people say they are happy to be all alone or they are okay with being mean, angry, or snarky because that’s just who they are–take them or leave them. Interestingly enough, everyone eventually leaves them, because no one in their right mind would (or should) put up with that brand of crazy. Life is too short to live being miserable.
And I’m not just talking about the day you take your last breath. Your actions affect you now and, if you are honest with yourself, you know that it would be so much better to whisper someone’s name than continue to live your empty life shouting your own name. If you are a taker, you will be able to tell by the echo that no one will be listening.
So, givers who are reading today, please respect yourself and set some limits, so you can–by your own wish and desire–give to those who would appreciate you and honor you with thanks-giving. And, takers, be aware that we’re spreading the word to cut you off, so you will be forced to face who you, are and then choose who you want to be while there is still time. Life’s a choice. Choose wisely.
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