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Are You Generous or Spineless?

by Shawanda Greene

Post image for Are You Generous or Spineless?

The likelihood of us becoming close friends is inversely related to your propensity to hassle me. Words generally used to describe me are “smart,” “sarcastic,” and just plain ol’ “awesome.”

Over the years, I’ve managed to escape labels such as “generous” or “giving.” Why? Again, because I don’t want to be hassled. You need a favor. Leave me alone. Figure out how to do it yourself. I have little patience for those who don’t grasp the concept of self sufficiency.

However, I don’t see myself as selfish. Before I help someone, I usually ask myself three questions:

  1. How burdensome is the task they’re asking of me?
  2. Can they do it themselves with relative ease?
  3. If I asked the same of them, would they be able and willing to help me?

Right now, you’re probably thinking that I am pretty selfish.

Allow me to explain.

Just because I’m unwilling to sacrifice my time, money and energy for an individual who resembles the likes of an inconsiderate freeloader more than a disadvantaged victim, doesn’t mean I’m selfish. And you know what? If you share the same opinion (albeit biased), you’re not selfish either.

Many people confuse spinelessness with generosity. They know they don’t wanna help nobody. If they weren’t afraid of what others would think of them, their responses to common requests would go something like this:

Transportation Request

Question: Can you drop me off at the airport? My flight leaves at 6:00 in the morning.

Answer: No.

Question: Why not?

Answer: Because I don’t feel like it. You know I don’t wake up until 8:15. Take a cab.

Moving Request

Question: Could you help me move on Saturday?

Answer: No.

Question: Why not?

Answer: I don’t know you like that. Plus, I don’t feel like it. You’ve been ducking and dodging me since I loaned you $50. Um, since you brought it up, where’s my money?

Money Request

Question: Can I borrow $350 to pay my light bill?

Answer: No.

Question: Why not?

Answer: You already owe me $50. If I had it to loan, I’d give it to you. Actually, I could give it to you. But I don’t feel like it. Maybe if you sell that big screen you just bought, you’ll have the money to pay a taxi and the movers and your light bill.

You have to shut down people who always need something. Unlike genuine charitable giving, enabling deadbeats only make you feel like a pushover. Not only are they time sucks and financial drains, they rob you of the opportunity to relish in your charitableness.

Before you agree to lend your services, ask yourself – Am I doing this because I’m generous, or is my lack of a spine clouding my judgment?

How do you decide who’s deserving of your sacrifice?

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Arohan November 9, 2009 at 11:11 PM

If every one was self sufficient, you wouldn’t be awesome anymore. Just average.

Come to think of it, a lot of social interactions occur because people lean on each other.

But I hear you.

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Shawanda Greene November 9, 2009 at 11:36 PM

Hmm. Not being awesome anymore. That’s scary.

My friends know if they really need something I’ll do what I can to help them. But certain requests are just unreasonable.

For instance, I refrained from asking a friend to drive me to the airport at 4:00 in the morning for three reasons 1) it was 4:00 in the morning, 2) the airport was an hour away, and 3) it cost a total $24 for off-site airport parking.

Asking a friend to go through such great lengths to save me $24 would be ridiculous.

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Carla November 10, 2009 at 1:44 AM

That (your post) is why I never ask anything of anyone.

Someone may wonder why I would chose to walk alone in the dark home, move a heavy object (something my doctors specifically tell me not to do) or not ask to borrow anything. Only at a breaking point or crisis do I ask anything of anyone (but its usually too late). THAT is a bad habit I’ve gotten myself into.

The funny thing is, I am usually always willing to help others.

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Shawanda Greene November 10, 2009 at 8:04 AM

Yes. What you’re describing is a bad habit. Ask for help woman! You should be able to call in some favors from those people you’ve helped.

Your statement “That (your post) is why I never ask anything of anyone” made me think of why I don’t like asking for help. It’s not just because I don’t want to inconvenience people. Which is the primary reason. But I’ve found that when people aren’t interested in helping, they’re really bad at it. Instead of being frustrated and disappointed, as much as I can, I’ll do things myself.

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ToyLady November 10, 2009 at 8:03 AM

You know, one thing I HATE is when people try to make me feel like I “owe” them something – and it’s usually because of their own poor time/money/resource management.

Thank goodness my son is finally starting to come out of that mentality – now that he’s past of the teenage years, he’s coming to realize that no, the world does NOT revolve around him, and no, nobody owes him anything. Yes, I’m happy to help him (or whomever) out if there’s a genuine need, and if my “helping” wouldn’t do more harm than good, if it’s not a regular occurrence, and if it won’t end up being more trouble than it’s worth. And, of course, if it’s actually voluntary on my part – free of guilt and manipulation. (Boy, that’s an awful lot of conditions, isn’t it?)

I love what you said – enabling deadbeats DOES make me feel like a pushover. And when NOT enabling them results in their trying to make me feel like a big old meanie, then I can be reasonably sure I’ve made the right choice!

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ctreit November 10, 2009 at 10:44 AM

You selfish!

I am with you. If you help people in situations that you describe, you are really only supporting their own ability to make good judgment calls. Saying “no” may actually turn out to be the best help you can give them, because your cold no could be the wake-up call they needed. Unfortunately it is so hard for many of us to say no especially in the context of caring and love, but sometimes a no is the right and best answer for a loved one, too.

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Ashley November 10, 2009 at 11:44 AM

Love this post! A lot of my friends ask for help not because they need it, but because they are too lazy to see if they can accomplish the task themselves. I also refuse to loan money to people that are short on cash because they have made other extravagant expenses.

If you just spent $300 on cosmetic services, I will not lend you money to pay your rent, but I will give you a lesson on the importance of prioritizing for free.

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Jason Menayan @ Dyalogues November 10, 2009 at 12:40 PM

These are 3 great examples. I NEVER ask people to drive me to the airport or help move. I know it’s a pain in the ass so why would I trouble someone? There are friends who have asked me, though, but I have weaned them off any lingering expectation with responses similar to yours. :)

I did call it quits with a friend who treated me like her personal chauffeur a few years ago. She also earns six figures a year but is somehow always drowning in debt, with nothing to show for it (investments, house, etc.) I don’t get people like her.

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Shawanda Greene November 10, 2009 at 11:12 PM

@ToyLady – I like all the conditions. I think I need to hand out a decision tree for folks to work through before they ask me for a favor.

@CTreit – I think we had a discussion on Twitter about the family member with the business proposition which turned out to be a personal loan. I didn’t want to tell her no. At times, I’m concerned I may have hurt her feelings. But I can’t give her the impression she can make bad decisions with her money and worry about the consequences later because I’ll be there to bail her out.

@Ashley – I’m sure you’ve learned, people don’t want lessons. They want cash. I remember a friend asked me if I was interested in investing $5,000 in a website for a friend of her sister. She told me her sister’s friend heard I might have the money. To this day, I don’t know the guy’s name. I’ve never even met him. Apparently, word gets around that you’re a saver. I thought $5,000 was a ridiculous amount of money to pay for a website for a new business. I told my friend I wouldn’t invest $5,000 in such a risky endeavor, but I could show the guy how to budget and save up the money himself. I still haven’t received a phone call from him.

@Jason Menayan – Chauffeuring is the worst. The people I find most annoying are those who you’re kind enough to bring along to social gatherings, then they get pissed or bored and want to leave before you’re ready. They make me sick.

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Tia Jones November 17, 2009 at 3:33 PM

Spineless :(

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