Caretaking vs. caregiving. Is there a difference? Why does it matter?
Let’s flip it around and see how it sounds: taking care of someone or something versus giving care to someone or something. Does it sound a little different now?
About 30 years ago, I was talking to a friend about how exhausted I was from taking care of several situations. None of them were really my situations, yet I felt as if I owned them, that they were mine to bear.
That’s the result of caretaking. We take the loads of others and put them on our own back. Their load becomes our burden. It doesn’t belong to us to carry it, but we do.
Caretaking strips others of their dignity and honor. In taking care, we rob others of the opportunity to grow, learn, and develop resilience and endurance.
Think of a child struggling with a toy. The child sits, trying to fit the round peg into the square hole. If we were to take the toy and do it for them, what is the impact of taking care of it for them?
God shows humans dignity and honor. He never steps in to take our load, but supports and encourages us while we carry it ourselves.
In reality, we can’t take care of others, and it’s not humble or modest to try. It’s not our place. Caretaking gives a false sense of controlling what’s really beyond our control (and sometimes beyond the control of the other person). But we can love, support, encourage, and care about the other person, and that’s caregiving.
We can think of caretaking and caregiving as opposite ends of the care spectrum. There’s a lot in between—some healthy behaviors, some not so healthy—and somewhere it can cross the line. How can we tell the difference?
What it feels like
- Caretaking is frustrating and exhausting. Caregiving feels like love and inspires.
- Caretaking oversteps boundaries. Caregiving honors boundaries.
- Caretakers believe self-care is selfish. Caregivers understand that in taking care of themselves, they sustain themselves so they can serve others with vigor.
- Caretakers keep account and come with expectations. Caregivers give freely of their time and energy.
- Caretakers believe they know what’s best for others. Caregivers know only what is best for themselves and share from their own experience.
- Caretakers tend to attract needy people. Caregivers tend to attract healthy people.
- Caretakers tend to be judgmental. Caregivers display grace and understanding.
- Caretakers start fixing right away. Caregivers respectfully wait to be asked for help.
- Caretakers fix problems. Caregivers walk alongside others, letting them know they’re not alone.
- Caretakers carry. Caregivers support.
- Caretakers care from a place of obligation and guilt. Caregivers care out of desire from within themselves.
- Caretakers use expressions such as “I have to” or “I need to.” Caregivers choose.
What situations or relationships come to your mind? What can you tweak? What changes in your thinking, viewpoint, or actions make sense to you?
The more we care about others in a balanced, humble, and modest way, the better off they are, and the better off we are. Relationships become more balanced and healthy, and they have space to thrive! What would that feel like for you? How much of your own time would you have back so you can focus on your life and goals?
If you desire more ideas to create balance and harmony in your life, see if my courses or other blog posts resonate with you.
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