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Giving with Limits

One of our core values as the Jewish people is chessed. We try to emulate Hashem in all of our actions, and given that Hashem is All-Giving, there’s a strong emphasis on the middah of chessed and giving to our fellow brothers and sisters. 

Chessed is truly a beautiful middah. It enables us to look past our own needs and peer into the lives and needs of others. It helps us love people unconditionally, it can even increase our own happiness levels. 

And, at the very same time, giving too much does not benefit anyone.

So what does that mean? What does “too much giving” look like? Is there even such a  thing as “too much giving”? If Hashem never ceases to give, then why should I?

These are all wonderful questions, and the answers are not all that black-and-white. Yes, there is such a thing as “too much giving”, but that limit looks different for everyone. As we’ve spoken about a lot before, one of the mindfulness skills taught in DBT is the Observe Skill. During Observe, a person takes in their surroundings in order to be present physically and emotionally. That Observe skill can also be utilized when observing one’s own limits. Some like to refer to this as “boundaries” but that often connotes arbitrary lines that tend to be one-size-fits-all. And it’s not one-size-fits-all. So, we refer to them as limits, which vary according to the person. Every person has their own giving limit. There are times when a person can push themselves to give a little more and there are times when a person needs to acknowledge they have their own needs that need to be met and they need to take a step back. And a person needs to be honest with themselves about where that line truly lies. 

But what if we really want to be like Hashem? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? The answer is yes, we are supposed to emulate Hashem, and Hashem is All-Giving. And also, when Hashem Created the world, He started off with only chessed. But then He needed to add gvura. He needed to add strength.

What is gvura? What does it mean that Hashem added gvura? Well, we can take the classic example of the oceans. Chessed meant creating oceans. Gvura meant limiting the ocean's boundary-lines so that we don’t drown. The chessed was limited for our own benefit. And Hashem adding gvura wasn’t His way of punishing us, nor was it Hashem being selfish. It was actually an act of chessed in it of itself. Because without the gvura, the chessed wouldn’t have helped us. We all would have drowned. 

And this plays out in every single act of chessed that Hashem does and that we do. Imagine you want to give someone some orange juice. You love love love to give and want to show that person how much you love them by giving to them. So how would you do it? Would you tell the person to open their mouth and just start pouring an endless amount of orange juice straight in? No, because the person would probably be sick to their stomach after that. You instead would give them a glass and only fill up within the confines and limits of that glass. 

When we observe and maintain our limits, we aren’t punishing the other person and we’re not acting out of selfishness. Actually, respecting our own limits is an act of chessed in it of itself for both us and the other person. If we were to endlessly give, it would be like pouring that endless amount of orange juice straight into a person’s mouth. They would drown. And not only would they drown, but we would very soon come to resent the person who is draining us of all of our resources. So endless chessed impacts the other person, ourselves, and the relationship, usually for the worse. It simply doesn’t work. It is only when we introduce gvura, limits, to our chessed when we are truly emulating Hashem. And it is only once we add the gvura that our chessed truly becomes chessed.


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