give freely

Vulnerability, Expectations, and Being “Used”

I've been thinking about vulnerability

Recently I watched a TED Talk by Brené Brown from a few years ago. She talked about connection, and mostly she talked about vulnerability. You can watch the short talk here:


As I was pondering the things Brené said in her talk, I checked Facebook, and this image was in my news feed:


Users or friends?


I thought a lot about what, to me, seems like a conflict between the truths in the TED Talk and the truths in this quote.

Where I landed was this: There are people whose motives in “befriending” you may not be transparent. So what? Will you let that define the type of person you will be?

I think of this in the context of the teaching I've heard on Brooke Castillo‘s excellent and thought-provoking Life Coach School Podcast. (Well worth listening to.) At the risk of doing her profound teachings an injustice, I'll paraphrase the key lesson I've taken from her:

Whatever is happening in your life, or whatever happens to you, your problem is never (never) your circumstances. It's what you think about your circumstances. So if you're feeling badly about a situation in your life, don't look at the situation, but examine what thoughts you're having about the situation, because those thoughts (not the situation) are what are causing the bad feelings you're experiencing.

This is good news. Really. Because while you can't always change your situation–and you almost never can change another person–you always, always, always have the ability to change your thoughts (and therefore your feelings).

This is very relevant to the issue of a friendships and whether a person is “using” you–and what to do about it.

To truly experience life means to be vulnerable to pain. To experience love (in all its forms, not just romantic love) means you have to open your heart to the possibility of hurt. Not a pleasant prospect.

But . . . no matter what another person's attitude or intentions might be, you can't be used or betrayed by another persogive freelyn if you give freely, out of an open heart, with no expectation of anything in return. The other person's motives are irrelevant to this issue, I believe.

I'm not saying we should have no boundaries, or that we should never say no to anyone. We still get to choose who has a place in our lives and in our hearts.

What I'm saying is that if we made that choice to have someone in our lives, and if we choose to give of ourselves to that person, the only thing that matters to us is our own motives. Not theirs.

If you feel you've been used or betrayed by someone in your life, pause for a moment and consider: Does it matter (really) what they've done, or what they intended? Those things are a problem for you only to the extent you expected something from that person that you did not receive. Dwelling on unfulfilled expectations can cause feelings of pain, sorrow, anger, and more. An unhappy way to live.

But the good news is that there's another way to look at it. You get to choose what you think about the person and the situation. You get to choose to open your hands and your heart and just give whatever you give–friendship, time, support, whatever–with no expectation of ever getting anything back from them.

Hard to do. Impossible? No. But really hard.

But the benefits are immeasurable. Peace of mind instead of turmoil and hurt feelings.

Every time I find myself aching over the loss of a friend, or angry or hurt by the “betrayal” of a person who I thought cared about me, I'm trying to stop, realize that those hurt feelings come from disappointed expectations–my own thoughts. I gave to this person, yes. But did I give freely, or did I give expecting something back?

If I can choose to let go of any expectations, I can choose to think differently about this person and about the situation. And in so choosing, my hurt feelings go away. I can simply be grateful for the opportunity to be the kind of generous, open-hearted, loving person I very much want to be.

What do you think? 

Thanks for stopping by.

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Greenville, Texas

I Was Just Thinking . . .

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