One of my sisters used to think I was mean. She used to tell me I was too hard on people and that I was too mean to one of my brothers.
I used to tell her she had a “Mother Theresa” complex and needs to stop trying to save everyone. She disagreed.
Ten years later she is finally gets it.
My sister and I are complete opposites. She’s loud, hot-tempered, intimidating, but funny, extremely nurturing, and entirely too trusting. I’m quiet, determined, I’m “the nice one”, but I trust no-one, and I say no with a smile on my face.
I’m the kind of person who will move on from someone if they betray me in some way just one time. This took strength, because I used to keep people in my life that never had my best interests in mind. So maybe it hardened me some. My sister is the kind of person who will trust you and forgive you multiple times until the damage is severe. Sometimes she’ll even forgive after that.
We’ve had conversations about this over the years, how our behaviors differ from each other. I recently told her that even though it’s great to help others, she needs to learn to take care of herself first and there is nothing wrong with that (the saying ‘you can’t give from an empty cup’ comes to mind). There are some people in the world who you just can’t help because they will ALWAYS need it. They will rob you of your resources, energy, time, and patience and then blame you when things don’t go their way.
I don’t mind helping people, even when it comes to giving money. I just have rules that I go about before I do those things. For example, I never give anyone money that I might need later on; if I’m going to need it, I don’t have to lend out. I’m picky about who I give money to as well; my younger sibling who works and just might be falling behind this month, sure. My unemployed adult cousin who I don’t speak to very often and always seems to find money to support their bad habits, probably not. I’ll offer time, help, and advice, or just flat out say no before I take on the financial obligations of another adult.
So its not that I’m mean or just like saying ‘no’ for the sake of it, I’m just making sure that I can take care of my own obligations before I’m giving my last to someone else. Especially to someone who cannot reciprocate the favor if the shoe was on the other foot and I was in a bind. It may sound crazy to some, but I will say that it has saved me a lot of time, money, and awkward situations with people.