When Helping Others Hurts You

Although we know that helping others helps you in many ways, there are certain circumstances when your desire to help out others may end up damaging … you. This article is not about not offering your help. On the contrary, it is important to help others, and I also help when I can. Nonetheless, sometimes generosity and kindness can be taken advantage of, and we have to know when to put a stop to it.

Why Can’t we Say No?

Some people are generous by nature and help whenever they can. You can always count on them, they are there for you. It is wonderful that they have your back. I have received help in times of need and that kind of help is not something you’ll forget. It can even create a bond between people.

multi-taskingHowever, when someone is constantly asking you to help with this and that, because he or she knows that you can’t refuse, perhaps you should be a little bit more careful. If you are always at your neighbor’s house, fixing the wires, cutting his hedge, painting his walls, and doing everything he requests your help for while he is having a beer and relaxing with his friends … perhaps he doesn’t really need your assistance and he is taking advantage of you.

Why can’t he do it himself? Why doesn’t he tell you to take a break and join him and his friends? Why can’t his friends help him? Why is it always you?

Maybe because he knows you cannot say no?

Just Say No

It isn’t always easy to say no, but when someone is taking advantage of you, you have every right to do so. Just say no. For some it isn’t that simple to turn down requests for help, even if they are aware that they are being exploited. Saying no is something many of us every so often need to learn.

Know When Enough is Enough

It feels good to help another. Even science has shown that giving and helping others stimulates the same part of the brain that is triggered by food and sex. This is where that feel good feeling comes from after you have done your good deed.

Image by 愚木混株 Cdd20 from Pixabay

Being taken advantage of, though, does not feel so great. On the contrary, it drains you. You feel used, or perhaps even down.

In junior high school I was an unpopular kid. I was considered a “weirdo” because I was shy and afraid to speak up. I had good grades, though, and during exams, I temporarily turned into a “popular” student, because people needed answers from me for this or that question. Although I knew very well that they were using me, I allowed it. And well, I was only 13. It is not an easy age.

Fortunately, things changed for me when I had to switch schools and do high school elsewhere. There, I was no longer the “weirdo” and kids accepted me for who I was. My last three years in school were quite pleasant, and now, decades later, I still have contact with some of my high school classmates via Facebook.

Final Thoughts

Never permit anyone to take advantage of you. We usually know when it’s done; at least, I believe we do. People who exploit your kindness do not respect you, and a real friend would not do that. The word “no” only has two letters, but for many it’s a hard word to say. Sometimes, we must put our foot down. Enough is enough.

If you respect yourself, you should say no when it feels right to do so.

When help is truly needed, I will help. No questions asked. I will offer my help when I see it is wanted or necessary. When someone is trying to use me, though, I may help once; I may even fall for it a second time, but once I realize what’s going on, I will eventually say no.

love is blind

It isn’t always easy to recognize when a line is being crossed. Well, in some cases it is, but when love or friendship is involved we may be temporarily blinded as well … Once that veil lifts, we can see clearly.

Do you know anyone who is being taken advantage of? Have you told them and has it had any results? Let me know in the comments below.

Thank you for reading!


14 thoughts on “When Helping Others Hurts You”

  1. “If you respect yourself, you should say no when it feels right to do so.”
    Absolutely right! There is nothing worse than knowing that you are being used. I think we can all sense it with our gut instincts, but because we want to fit in or be liked we sometimes let it slide. Long term, this behaviour will not support our wellbeing or help the ‘user and abuser’ become independent.

    I’m reminded of the saying: Give a hungry man food and you’ll feed him for a day, but teach him to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.

    While the motivation for someone to take advntage of us may remain unknown (it may be genuine need in which i’ll willingly help) often, by hlping them we are supporting them in their weakness….. so no one benefits.

    Thanks for sharing

    • Hi Andrew,

      It is very true that by helping someone who keeps on taking advantage we are supporting them in their weakness. Thank you very much for your valuable comment!

  2. My parents were great examples to me and were always helping others. And yes, they were sometimes taken advantage of. And they would always let it go on a bit too far. Until at some point they would be so fed up with it, that they broke off the contact completely.

    For quite some time I had that same attitude, but nowadays I think it’s better to not let it come that far. It’s not either black or white. There is a lot of gray in between as well, which is just as good. And seeing the regret later on in my parents that they didn’t have any contact with certain people anymore made me realize that it’s wise to learn to say no in time.

    Great advice in your article, Christine, and as always I enjoyed reading it. 🙂

    • Hi Hannie,

      I have also made the mistake of letting things go too far, and then it usually ends badly. It is important to put our foot down right from the beginning, in any kind of scenario. There is indeed a lot of gray area, it can never be clear cut black and white.
      Thank you for your comment! I’m glad you enjoyed my article 🙂

  3. Reading the part of you in school was like reading my entire school existence! I allowed it because at least for a moment I was somebody but it did not feel good. When I changed schools it still happened but to a much smaller degree!
    After high school I was taken advantage of by any friend I made, so eventually I stopped trying to make friends.
    Now that I am in my 30s I started to make real friends! It took awhile but eventually learned my lesson. A real friend gives back!

    • Hi Brianna,

      Sometimes we think we have friends, but in times of need we realize who our true friends are (or aren’t) … I have also made mistakes when choosing friends, I think many of us do. Someone once told me that she met her best friends in her 40s. Eventually, we do learn our lessons, a real friend is there for you and gives back, very true!
      Thank you for your comment!

  4. I have been in this position many times when close family and friends took advantage of my kindness and carried on until I put my foot down and said, ‘no.’ So the word ‘no’ does work if used properly.
    I feel saying no is better than saying yes in most occasions. It saves you from burn-out as well people getting disappointed from your expectations when the target is not being met.

    Thank you for the valuable post.

  5. Hello Christine, thanks for sharing this wonderful information you have here. Helping other people can make you better person when you are faced with such environment. However I have never heard about getting hurt when you try to help other people but I hope we all learn and do the right thing always when faced 

  6. I saw one of my friends who is always helping his family when they need money, but they keep asking for more after he helps them. He cannot say “NO!” to them, but he also feels sad and regretful each time…
    He must read this article to be brave to say “NO!” to them. Although it might hurt the first time, he will get better after practice. 🙂 Do you think it gets harder when those people are your family?


    • Hi Matt,

      It is probably harder because they are his family, but especially family should not take advantage of him. If they need money, it is great that he helps them, but if they keep on asking for more, then it sounds as if they are using him … He should set his boundaries and say no sometimes.

  7. You wrote this article just for me, Christine. I am the kind-hearted person who loves to help people, would give people my last, but is often taken advantage of for my kind heart. As the saying goes, “no good deed goes unpunished.” Some people are users; they only come around when they want something, and if you can’t help them, they’re nowhere to be found. Even worse, users will drain you of all of your resources (if you allow them to), but they’re never there for you when you need them to be. I don’t use it against them, however. I pray for them, choose to be the bigger person in the situation, and continue to display the love of Jesus Christ in my daily living. God sees everything, and he’ll bless (and/or deal) with all of us accordingly. God bless you!

    • Hi Carletta,

      You are very right when you say not to hold it against them and choose to be the bigger person in the situation. That’s not always easy to do, depending on the situation, nonetheless it is important to remember..
      Thank you for your valuable comment!

  8. Thank you for sharing your experience. Your points are very valid. Helping others can make you feel better but you need to make sure you are not being taken advantage off and that you still have enough energy and resources to care for yourself!
    Like yourself I always want to help others and find it difficult to say no but sometimes you need to say no. I believe it is about finding the right balance which is not always easy to do.


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