How do you live unselfishly and care for others without losing yourself?
I think there's a fine line of balance between taking care of yourself and giving to others. People who find the median between these two poles are truly blessed. But people often get caught up in one or the other. A lot of people focus on self, how much money they have, and personal beauty. While not everything about these things is bad, if people's thoughts become completely absorbed by them, they stop thinking of others. Then there are those people who focus totally on others. While they have the best intentions, they end up letting others take advantage of them, or they find themselves overwhelmed by all who need help.
I have seen those who have given freely of themselves be treated very poorly. I have also seen the most selfish, unloving, and uncaring people become the most popular of all. But I also see people who love and care for others, all the while standing up for themselves and being respected. A good balance is possible.
The people who have found the balance are the happiest. They have the best friends; they have good happen to them; and they get more joy out of helping others. Their mantra is, "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matt 7:12). This is also known as the Golden Rule. These people have learned the secret to life -- they have found the fine line.
So what do these people do that puts them on this line? They never exclude anyone because of mere social standing. They give all people the chance to be their friend, but they will not tolerate any abusive or morally wrong behavior. These people do not single out others to humiliate them, and they never start fights. And yet when push comes to shove, these people will hold on to what they believe is right and fight for it.
These people will loan money freely, without interest, and tip far above customary rates. At the same time, they will collect the money they lend, and will only tip a person who deserves it, not complimenting something done poorly, but rather finding the good and acknowledging it. They also look upon life with happiness and optimism, but they do it with proof that there is a God, and that this God loves them for their joy. In fact, God is the source of their joy.
God loves those who do good for others. But God does not expect us to give away our spirit – give away who we are. God would want us to rejoice in who we are so that we can bless others and be blessed ourselves.
N. F., age 15
Playing the victim and letting others bully or abuse us is NOT strong. We must stand up to inappropriate behavior. God will have to tell us how to do so. Giving so much of ourselves that we deplete ourselves is also counterproductive. Giving should make us feel energized. If we constantly feel like we're being trampled on, like a doormat, something is wrong. We give of ourselves; we don't give away ourselves, as N.F. mentioned.
So how do we do that?
Let's look at Jesus. He totally gave of himself. He even let himself be crucified. But he was NEVER a wimp! He told the truth in every circumstance. At the beginning of his mission, he spoke forcefully to evil: "Away with you, Satan" (Matt 4:10). He later challenged the scribes and the Pharisees when they attempted to misinterpret his teachings. Near the end of his mission, he whipped the money-changers out of the temple. In every instance, he stood up to evil. He stood for God.
Above all, his ministry was characterized by unconditional love. He welcomed those who were excluded. He ordered, "Love your enemies and pray for them who persecute you" (Matt 5:44). Jesus gave us the Golden Rule, which doesn't say anything about doing good to others and getting good in return. It simply commands us to treat others well.
Jesus always knew who he was -- God's son. (And we're God's sons and daughters, too!) Jesus was not weak. In fact, he was strong because he totally relied on God. He proved that the cross couldn't keep him down. Rather, he rose above the crucifixion. He showed us what is possible if we act with love from God.
So long as we put ourselves on the same foundation – the love of God – we'll be guided to do and say what we need to in every situation. We'll find that we can give from a position of strength. We'll find that instead of thinking about whether we're taking care of others or taking care of ourselves, we'll start thinking more about how to serve God – and God will take care of all of us.