Some of us are of the disposition where we like to help people. It seems like a perfectly good plan until it becomes of personal detriment. Now you may ask “HOW COULD HELPING PEOPLE EVER BE BAD!?” To that I would say “”Have you actually met people? We are bastards”.
It’s true that when in doubt humanity often times manages to take advantage of us all, and in some cases when you give too much, you really just played yourself.
Buddhism plays a huge part in my personal spiritual practice. I am not a good Buddhist mind you, but I am definitely trying. Often times we are told that Buddhism can focus too much on suffering and I would agree had I not done any further research.
The reason this matters in because years ago when I was 18, and had no idea where I was spiritually I heard a story from a little old Tibetan named Jampa. She would come into the coffee shop I worked at and make us momos (a very yummy dumpling, of which I ate hundreds). She also sometimes told stories from her home and one of them while I vaguely remember the details goes like this:
Once there was a young monk who sought to be so like Buddha that he would give away anything he had were he just asked. One day an old man came up and asked him for the money the monk had just begged for. The young monk gave it too him, and did not eat that night.
The next day the same old man sought out the Monk and did the same, only this time he asked for his shoes, which the monk gave him. The monk was happy he was able to suffer as the Buddha had, and hoped threw these trials he would reach enlightenment. But after months of the same routine the young monk truly had nothing, he was naked, starving, and still no closer to Nirvana. The Monk lamented his place in the world.
Then as he sat in sorrow the Buddha appeared to him, giving the monk his robe he said “To be a monk is to serve the world around you, not to try and bargain with your things for enlightenment” pointing to the old man who now had all of his things “I sent this greedy devil to teach you this, to give without reason in the hope of divine favor is a vice. Enlightenment comes from the desire to truly serve others, not to serve others in hope of reward.”
What I got from that is that giving can be detrimental to oneself if not within reason or with true purpose. If you give so much it becomes harmful to yourself then if it really for the greater good? if you drain yourself of energy and resources to help one person, or one cause are you really working towards greater sense of self? Or are you becoming beholden to your ego, many people who think they are “good people” can be capable of this.
I grew up in a family that did alot for others to the point where my sisters and myself often went without our needs. I don’t think letting yourself or your family be taken advantage of makes you a better person. I think it makes you a selfish one, for focusing so much on social capital and bragging rights. For instance my family often let people who we didn’t really like or need to support just live with us for infinite amounts of time. They didn’t help with house chores, bills, anything really, and often were just leeches. It was as much my parents fault for allowing happen as it was the offenders.
I recently had a friend in need let’s call her Mary, who while my partner and I had just moved into our first apartment together, we agreed she could stay with us for a few days. As it got closer to the weekend I told her “you are going to have to find another place to stay we are leaving for the weekend.” Now my parents never would have done that, but also we have had many people steal from us so….. She wasn’t a close enough friend for me to let her stay in my new house unattended. Mainly cause Mary’s friends who knew where she was and wanted to hang out, don’t care about my partner or I, there would be no reason for them not to take something. So I decided “Should I put not only my livelihood on the line and another person’s (my partner).” The answer was “nope,” and the week after that a closer friend Ben,had to stay with us for a week while his apartment was being repaired. So we got to help him within reason, had I allowed myself to let my other friend who I knew less stay, and something bad happened, I wouldn’t have had the resources to help Ben. In the end four people left those chaotic weeks better off. The all four of us being screwed, I can still help Mary out cause I have the energy to do so, and because my resources aren’t lacking (like I am poor but can always spare a little), I can keep providing for myself.
The moral I take from this is give, but don’t let someone greedy take advantage of you, just for the sake of being a ‘good person’.