“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Acts 20:35
“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” – Aesop
At one time or another, we’ve heard numerous sayings extolling the virtue of generosity.
And yet, while I’m sure we can all agree that being generous is a good thing, too much of a good thing can’t be…well, good.
Have you ever felt as though people think they can walk all over you, that you’re a pushover, or that you’re an easy mark—all because you’re too kind?
When does the giving stop and the taking begin?
Start standing up for yourself and protecting your peace by spotting these 10 signs someone is taking advantage of your generosity.
1) The relationship is one-sided
It’s normal to talk about oneself every now and then; after all, your own self is the subject you know best.
But when that person goes on incessantly about their day, their opinions, their life—basically everything—then you’ve got yourself a one-sided relationship.
They expect you to listen and be there for them, but they don’t try or offer to do the same for you.
You see, generosity doesn’t always mean just money or material things. You can be generous with your time, talents, and effort. Not showing interest or care for your needs is a sign someone is taking advantage of your generosity.
2) You’re their go-to for favors
We all know that one “friend” who you never get to talk to—except when they show up to ask you for a favor.
Whenever you see them, it’s always them asking for your time, your resources, or, in the case of asking to sleep on your couch, your privacy.
I knew someone once whose identity I will conceal by calling her “B”. B was a college pal of mine. She was vivacious, funny and a lot of fun to be around.
But she was also a notorious flake. You would make plans together and when you’re already on your way, B would call to take a raincheck.
We hadn’t spoken for several months—just because life has been extra busy—and one time, very late at night, she calls me up without so much as a “How are you?” and proceeds to ask if her boyfriend could stay over at my place because he was drunk.
Never mind the fact that it was an outrageous request, it was the lack of propriety and gratitude that chafed at me. Unsurprisingly, I denied her and we haven’t spoken since.
3) They only show up when they need something
Another sign someone is taking advantage of your generosity is when they approach you when they need something.
One person asking another for help isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it becomes less innocent when someone begins to hound you for help without any regard for what you might be going through.
4) They never thank you
Yet another sign someone is taking advantage of your generosity is someone taking you for granted.
When you go have a meal at a restaurant, the bill somehow always finds its way to you. That someone might also expect you to bring them home or expect you to find your own way home. What’s more, they never even say thanks!
One of the simplest ways to express gratitude is by saying “thank you”.
But if someone rarely or never does, it may mean they have learned to receive these things from you almost as if it was their right.
I had another college friend that I will call “J”. J was the ultimate party girl, somehow able to function on a combined total of eight hours a week (I’m only exaggerating a little bit).
In my 20s, I liked to party as much as the next girl, but I had my limits. J acted as though they didn’t exist. She dictated what time I would get to leave a party we went to together, even though I said I was tired or had to be home at a certain hour.
After everything I did for her, she acted like it was no big deal. Eventually, we grew apart and my life got just a little bit better and more peaceful.
5) They guilt-trip you into doing things for them
Picture this: someone you know calls you up and asks if they can stay at your place for a few days.
If your answer is anything other than “yes”, they barrage you with sob stories that will make you look like the jerk for turning them down.
They will paint themselves as victims of their situation, in the hopes that they will appeal to your soft side.
This victim mentality involves attributing blame on something or someone else (“My landlord won’t extend the due date for rent”), shirking responsibility (“How was I supposed to know pets weren’t allowed in the building?”), making excuses and believing they are faultless (“I just threw a harmless little party and my roommate kicked me out!”)
This is one of the signs someone is taking advantage of your generosity.
6) They don’t respect your boundaries
Perhaps one of the best examples of someone disrespecting your boundaries is my ex-friend, J.
Recall that in those old days of staying out till sunup, she would not listen to me whenever I said that I needed or wanted to go home already, or that I just didn’t feel like going out.
When someone feels that they can draw on your generosity whenever they wish, it will come as no surprise that they may not acknowledge or honor your boundaries.
This kind of person forces him/herself on you even when you don’t have the headspace or emotional bandwidth to accommodate whatever they’re going through.
Remember, friends care about friends. A considerate person would take your personal space and peace into account.
7) They make empty promises
You’re out for coffee with a friend and the check arrives. Your friend pretends not to see the check and lets it sit there until you finally pick it up and pay.
“I’ll get it next time,” your friend says, all of a sudden noticing that you’ve paid.
But “next time” never seems to arrive. They’re always either too busy or something came up.
Making hollow promises to repay you is a sign someone is taking advantage of your generosity. At the next instance, before the meet-up takes place, agree to split the bill.
8) You’re feeling used
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with helping another person from time to time. You might offer to give them a makeover, introduce them to people who can point them in the direction of a new job, or simply introduce them to new people so they can make friends.
Unfortunately, there are people who actively try to see how knowing you can benefit them.
Will their association with you make them more popular? Richer?
They might ask you to introduce them to your cute older brother or sister.
They might even ask for an introduction to your boss looking for someone to fill a lucrative role at your company.
Whatever the case, this is one of the signs someone is taking advantage of your generosity.
9) They “borrow” your things
To illustrate this point, let me tell the third and final story of someone I once knew, whom we shall call “R”.
When I met R in my early 20s, she was going through a rough time at home.
She had no mother to care for her and instead had a somewhat absent father who let her and her brother do whatever they wanted.
She would stay over for weeks at a time at friends’ houses until finally, she ended up staying with me.
At first, I lent her some of my clothes and other things so she could take care of her hygiene.
But as the days went by, I noticed she was becoming more and more emboldened to just take whatever clothing she wanted from my closet.
Things came to a head when she packed a bag full of clothes and even my slippers, telling me that her boyfriend invited her to an overnight trip out of town.
And I never heard from her again.
People like R feel entitled to special treatment from you even though they did nothing to earn it.
They may think that the world owes them something and they don’t need to reciprocate it.
They believe they deserve this special treatment because they’ve had it hard in life or because you “can afford it”.
They tend to put their needs ahead of yours and are not grateful for things they do have.
10) They’re fair-weather friends
When the going gets tough, THEY get going.
When things are going well for you, they’re always around, ready to share in the celebration.
But when things are looking down, they’re nowhere to be found.
Does that sound familiar?
People such as these don’t want to listen to you moaning and groaning about you losing your job, getting dumped by your partner, or even something as grave as losing your house.
They don’t want to make an effort to see you especially since you have nothing to give them.
They don’t see why they should spend time with you if there’s nothing in it for them.
With friends like these, who needs friends?
This is just another sign someone is taking advantage of your generosity.
The bottom line
Truly, there’s nothing wrong with being a generous person. In fact, it’s a desirable trait to have.
But in a world where not everyone has good intentions, it’s important that you protect your peace and your boundaries.
You can be generous but firm—stand your ground when something doesn’t sit right with you.
Learn to say no; it’s not being selfish, it’s self-care.