A perfect example is my cousin — we’ll call her Trina (not her real name), who was recently promoted within her company to a job with more responsibility and a lot more money, but was unable to enjoy her success and its perks because her older sister, let’s call her April (also a pseudonym) constantly calls her to “borrow” money and buy her kids things that she and her boyfriend are responsible for supplying their children. Trina didn’t want her sister to know about her promotion, because she was certain that April would increase her demands for money, clothing and gifts.
I was not surprised to hear that April wanted her sister’s money and felt entitled to it (she’d attempted to “borrow” money from me in the past), but Trina’s obvious guilt about saying “No” to her was a surprise. Less than a week before, April had complained to my mother that Trina was “stingy” with her and her kids. I mentioned this to Trina.
She shrugged and said, “That’s how April is. She doesn’t appreciate anything anyone does for her.”
Why am I telling you about my cousins’ toxic sibling relationship? Because so very many of you ladies are engaged in similar relationships with people who see you as nothing more than someone who owes them something. Someone they can use. While you study, work hard, save for rainy days, and operate in the world with honesty, courage and generosity, you betray those values by allowing others to forgo living a similarly upstanding life.
This is probably the single biggest mistake that African-American women make. We expect so much of ourselves, yet give those we love (or just like) an easy out and make feeble excuses for them. Whether this is done out of fear of censure and abandonment, or because of a subconscious belief that other Black folks are innately inferior and incapable of providing for themselves, it really doesn’t matter. It only matters that it stop.
The plain and simple truth is this: when you do for others what they are capable of doing for themselves, you create dependency, need and resentment. There’s a reason, when people grow dependent on someone, they grow hostile towards them and begin acting out. They understand, if only subconsciously, that the giver is not really helping them, but trapping them, robbing them of the power to control their own destiny, for better or worse.
“Give a man a fish he eats for one day, teach a man to fish and he eats for a lifetime.”
Sometimes you have to let those you love fail and suffer a little. When you demand no more and no less from others than you’d expect from yourself, you demonstrate genuine respect for them and you. No one respects a parasite, not even the parasite; so, what is gained by perpetuating a relationship that fosters disrespect, dependency and resentment?
I told Trina what I thought of her financing her sister’s idle lifestyle and, though she agreed, she is still giving her sister money! This will probably continue until things reach a boiling point. In the meantime, Trina struggles to save for her own far-off retirement, while paying off a mortgage and supporting her sister’s family, which includes April’s under-employed baby daddy.