How to give the benefit of the doubt without being taken advantage of

Providing people the benefit of the doubt is an important part of living compassionately, spiritually, and mindfully, yet those of us who actively provide this often find ourselves tricked, lied to, and taken advantage of. Discovering a way to balance this compassion with our own self-preservation is important. 

If we are taken advantage of time and time again, we are almost certainly going to feel our compassion towards all people wane. We might become distrusting, withdrawn, and even hurtful towards others, assuming they are just waiting to hurt us back. For these reasons, and many more, actively preventing others from walking over us and our kindness is vital. It is an act of self-love to take care of ourselves in this way, and it is an act of love towards others when we preserve the ability to remain kind. 

The first step in providing the benefit of the doubt without being taken advantage of is by knowing where our limits lie. A healthy part of any relationship is to have clearly defined limits. What these are will vary between each and every one of us, but taking time to reflect on what is an automatic cut off, what damages the relationship, and what is just a minor mistake will help us understand how to address any conflict when it arises. Once we know our limits, it becomes much easier to communicate them to others. Then, if someone is aware of a huge grievance of ours and still chooses to cross that line, we can easily put up a hard self-protecting boundary. We had already provided the benefit of the doubt when we initially explained the boundary, we don’t need to always provide a second one. 

Of course, we may choose to provide a second chance, depending on our relationship to the person and what we know about their situation. If they say they weren’t aware of such a boundary and we sense genuine honesty in their words, we may open up a healthy discussion where we both discuss our experiences and apologize for misunderstandings. Through this conversation, we can clarify our boundaries and deepen our empathy for the other. 

Most people react harmfully out of their own fear, pain, or grief. When we empathize with others, we can often sense where they are coming from and understand exactly why we should give them the benefit of the doubt. This makes it easier to discern if we want to flex our limits or keep them as a hard line. If our friend said something really cruel, but we realize later that they had just heard their childhood friend had passed away, we might feel a lot more forgiving. 

No matter what the person experienced that led them to acting hurtful, we still have a right to hold them accountable. Even when someone is upset, it doesn’t mean it was right to walk over us, and it is still important to make sure they are holding themselves accountable too. If they brush off any hurts with the excuse of “(insert almost any reason here),” they are demonstrating that our pain (as a result of their actions) doesn’t matter much to them. If they share they are truly apologetic and want to atone, even if they had a valid reason for lashing out, this is a great sign they are genuinely dedicated to the health of our relationship with them.

Each relationship we are in has its own nuances and each conflict will have its own challenges. There is no one way to prevent us from ever being taken advantage of, while providing a compassionate understanding towards others, but these key points will help us remain closer to a healthy place of balance. 

Remember, it is always your right to set a boundary, decide who is in your life and how they interact with you, and provide compassion as freely as you alone wish to. With an ability to honor ourselves and our needs, making sure our joy is just as much of a priority as the happiness of those around us, we will prevent ourselves from being taken advantage of while remaining loving, giving, and filled with light. 

Through his experience healing from abuse, Arien has learned a lot about creating boundaries while remaining a loving individual. He now works passionately with other survivors, people in life transitions, and those desiring healing through his life coaching practice. Right now, as his website is in creation, you can find him at his Facebook here:

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Comment by Arien Smith on October 12, 2016 at 8:35am

Hi Regina! Thanks so much, I really appreciate it! :)

Comment by Regina Chouza on October 11, 2016 at 10:47pm

Hi Arien! Thanks for this! I'm forwarding your submission to the publishers for possible inclusion in an upcoming edition - Blessings! Regina

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