Merciful Giver or Doormat?


July 18, 2011 by Heather Harris

Since my last post, I have been doing a lot of reading on spiritual gifts, both from the Bible and from blogs and articles.  I think my confusion about whether or not I had let my spiritual gift die was really a confusion about what spiritual gift I have in the first place.

When I was younger, I used to think I didn’t have a spiritual gift.  Looking at all the different gifts outlined in the scripture, especially in 1 Corinthians 12, I felt like I didn’t even have a spiritual gift because none of the gifts mentioned were things I felt gifted in, so I kind of dismissed gifts altogether. It was only recently, when I read this verse, that I began to think about it again:

  “As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” (1 Peter 4:10)

So each one of us, as Christians, have received a gift that God has planted in us to develop for His glory.  That means me too. Discovering this verse made me then wonder what spiritual gift I had, so I began to think back to my natural abilities as a child.  In my thought process I kept being reminded of the various instances in which I had been drawn to the outcasts and had the ability to love and understand them when others couldn’t.  This made me think that maybe I had the gift of love or something, but I am still unsure.  Nowhere in the scriptures is love referred to as a spiritual gift.  In fact it is something that God says all of us should have for one another:

“And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” (1 Peter 4:8)

So then I began thinking about what a friend had told me at a chapel service in which we were talking about gifts.  We were asked to break off into groups to discuss what our gifts were.  When it came around to me, I didn’t have a clue what to say. I didn’t feel like I had a spiritual gift.  But my friend looked at me, and said, “Heather, you are really good at accepting people for who they are and loving them no matter what.” This again made me think that my spiritual gift had something to do with love, but I still wasn’t quite there yet.  Then I found these verses:

“Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or ministry, let us use it in our ministering; he who teaches, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.” (Romans 12:6-8)

Mercy and compassion…that is my spiritual gift.  I am always giving people second chances, no matter what they have done, and I have an ability to do so even, dare I say especially, when they are undeserved.

But let me just say that there are times when I absolutely despise this gift.  I have shared many angry rants with God about it.  Most of the time it’s because I feel like it’s not fair.  I willingly and lovingly give out second chances, but when the tables are turned, hardly anyone does the same for me. I realize that this is because I have a gift for this, but as a strong, immensely independent person, my gut reaction is to rebel against my gift because I get sick of feeling like a doormat.

My problem has been finding a balance.  Do I always give out second chances, or is there a point when I am supposed to stand up for myself?  As I continue to exercise and develop my gift, I hope to find the answer to this question as it has been one of my biggest struggles for the longest time.

What do you think? Is there a time and a place for spiritual gifts to be used and not used? Or are we always supposed to exercise them, whether they seem fair or not?


6 thoughts on “Merciful Giver or Doormat?

  1. Paul in his instructions to the Corinthians tells them that the use of the gifts of tongues and interpretation have their place and time. That if one has the gift of tongues and there is no one present that has the gift of interpretation of tongues then the one with the gift of tongues should remain silent in public.

    But can we carry this instruction over to other gifts? I would think that with the gifts of mercy, compassion, grace, hospitality, and the like, if we have been so gifted that we exercise them whenever the call arises. Therefore, maybe one who has these gifts should always exercise it. I mean isn’t this what Jesus did? Wasn’t He always merciful, compassionate, gracious, and hospitable no matter how He had been treated? I think when exercising these gifts we would do well to keep in mind the kenosis passage of Philippians 2:5-8 and not look to our own rights and desires.

    But then we need to take a look at what does it look like to be merciful, compassionate, gracious, hospitable. Maybe it doesn’t always look the same. Maybe in one set of circumstances when giving a second chance we allow the other full access just as before. But maybe in another set of circumstances the second chance means we set some boundaries. I do not think that exercising your gifts means you have to allow yourself to be a doormat. Because maybe the most loving thing to do for the other is to refuse that position of doormat. I think of abusive relationships. But, how about lending money. Sure we should do so without expecting anything in return, but there comes a point when we are just being used and taken advantage of. Maybe the best thing we can do for that person is to not lend.

    I think Jesus calls us to a radical love which requires a radical vulnerability which in turn opens us up to being used and hurt.

    How many times should we forgive? If our fellow sins against us 7 times a day and asks forgiveness 7 times a day we forgive. Is the 7 times 7 a command? Is it a limit? Or is it a call to forgive as much as it takes?

  2. hrh413 says:

    Paul, I love your comments. They make me think.

    I think it’s a matter of discerning when I am serving for a purpose, and when I am just being taken advantage of. That’s where that sense of when people really need to be shown mercy and when they are just using me comes in. I think that ability to sense when there is a need is part of every spiritual gift, and it in turn helps us to exercise our gifts without becoming doormats in the process.

    Though Jesus served and loved without condition, he also never allowed people to use him for their own purposes. When he served, he did so for God’s purposes and no one else’s. Therefore, I think we should follow his example and do the same.

  3. maninacave says:

    I would love to use this post in our church magazine. Would that be OK? We would also post it at our church website:

    we are looking at spiritual gifts right now from a reformed evangleical perspective (which you might know is usually quite cessationist). But I have been very influenced by such people as Terry Virgo and Mark Driscoll and through reading the scriptures afresh am beginning to see that the gifts are still with us today. I think this realization has been a factor in my rise out of depression recently (for the first time in 10 years).

    So please let me know.

    In His Grace, Philip.

    • hrh413 says:

      I would love for you to use this for your church! The reason I write this blog is so I can help people through my experiences and thoughts, so please go ahead and use it! If you could just send me a link when it is up on the website that would be great. Thanks!

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