Learning when not to be helpful

“No good deed goes unpunished.” 
I heard twice this semester while trying to help a friend/colleague with a project. While being encouraging, resourceful, and generous, I heard this pithy statement when things didn’t go according to plan.

Imagine my surprise, as an almost thirty year old, to learn that not everyone in the world appreciates those who are willing to help.

Since moving to this small community I’ve had to train myself to do the opposite of my parents’ example. They were eager and willing to help anyone at any time – in my father’s case, almost to a fault in many instances according to my mother.

Many people will tell you I have boundless energy. And from the inside, although it isn’t what it used to be, say when I was in college, I do manage to get quite a few things done at the same time.

But I’ve had to harness my energy for myself. This sounds so selfish and counterintuitive, but it is nevertheless the case in the nearly three years I’ve been in the desert.

People don’t appreciate boundless energy, as someone in the hallway at a conference said to me: “There is such a thing as too much enthusiasm, you know.”

Well, now that you bring it up, no. I did not know. I did not know my effusive optimism and belief that excellence in work would win anyone over (or at least silence the naysayers) was hopelessly naive.

But I’m practising triming things back. Stifling the urge to lift my hand at meetings and offer to untangle messy knots. Keep my time and talent to myself for other things.

It’s hard to break years of seeing your parents offer rides home to people they had met in the Wal-Mart check out line. Or to temper the knowledge that I can help with the update that it would not be appreciated it.

If I sound like I’m swinging between disillusionment and being protective I am.

Knowing where the line is with different people is hard. Figuring out where their trigger between generousity and jealousy is exhausting.

So I’m learning to keep it closer to home. Where it is generally more appreciated anyway.