The other day I got a question from a reader in response to my essay on the importance of being around gracious people. This is true all of the time, really, but particularly when you’re in a polyamorous relationship system.
They asked me a question that might seem obvious but hit me rather funny. Here’s a paraphrase: Where’s the line between being gracious and being a doormat?
It took me several days to pinpoint why the question itself hit me funny. Because through one lens, it’s an entirely sensible thing to ask. And I could probably spin up some helpful guidelines and rehash old territory on the subject. (Readers who are interested in the topic should check out every essay I’ve written that deals with people pleasing.)
But as I went to write that piece, it occurred to me why the question hit me so funny. And why I didn’t really want to write a rehash of this.
It’s simple: If you’re in a situation where you’re asking yourself if you’re being too much of a doormat, then you already know the answer.The answer is yes.
I suppose there is one superficial similarity between graciousness and being a doormat: Both deal in selfless behaviors. But beyond the surface, they are very different. Acting with grace can even entail quite a bit of sacrifice that might not always make sense to people who aren’t involved in the situation. But one thing is for certain: Grace is given freely, without resentment, without doubt.
It is selfless behavior that typically feels natural. You don’t feel like a doormat when you’re being gracious. The thought doesn’t even enter your mind. You don’t really think of doing things differently. And I’ve found that when I’m being gracious, I often will get satisfaction out of being solicitous.
I do not feel stepped on, put out, or resentful when I’m gracious. And if I do, that’s doormat territory.
Have a question about a post? Maybe need some advice about a relationship or situation? Write me. I love getting messages from you.
Your letter and my answer might be featured in Advice Friend. I regularly change identifying details and/or completely rewrite letters to preserve anonymity.