When does doing Chesed become called "being used"?

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    I am ashamed to post this because I although I love my friend and owe her a lot of gratitude, however, I am not sure how to go about continuing to “help her”. I am asking the coffee rooms’ opinion, despite the obvious lack of loyalty this letter portrays.

    I have a friend that regularily asks “favors”, that stem on annoying and inconvenient, without as much as half an apology or worse, a genuine offer of thanks, at the end of the day.

    I feel bad to ‘complain’, knowing her situation is difficult. Not only is she on bedrest but she has no older girls at home to help. Her only option is to inconvenience her bocherim or husband. As it is completely not an option to have bocherim shopping the city and trapsing around on city buses she always asks my daughter to do her errands for her. However my daughter is my only help at home.

    I know she probablly feels I owe it to her because she is always coming in with help for me, at times when I least expected it. Like a loan, when I am desperate, or other personal things which really i would never have asked of her. But the point is I DONT ASK! For example, she surprises me and says oh you are getting a delivery tommorrow of a …such and such item…Meanwhile, its true i desperately needed this and although I always pay her back penny for penny. But its like she manipulates me, now that now he has a free raincheck to call on me when she needs things, regardless of whether or not I am inconvenienced. Because she did me something. Even if I never asked for it. Aside for the personal inhome help she needs and we assist with, sometimes, I help her in other practical ways as well. Which I do not have a problem with.

    My question is : is that what is called being a friend? Like she should be able to call me up any time any place and ask anything of me? Usually I am quite assertive and say if I honestly cannot accomodate, however I am always left with this paniced urge to “please her”. But I always feel she is looking how to get me to utilize my time for her benefit.

    The issue of being used is that she has a husband, who is able to run these errands in most cases. I do not own a vehicle, and have to use bus transportation which costs a fare 2 ways. She does not offer to reimburse me or a big explanation of why she needs a particular demand of me, or a sincere thanks after I have run around for her. Usually its met with a question like ” they didnt have a differnt color?” “DId They have other sizes?” I feel exhausted and flabbergast sometimes. Like “is that all you have to say”?

    In short she acts like I didnt do anything. I always tried to be dan l’kuf zechus, thinking “wow what a tzdakaus..she is so machmir not to thank me directly in order not to take away from my olam haba”. But its annoying.

    I remember when I had just met her. I barely new her. Fresh acquaintances and she called me up to run some errands for her. And I felt panicked like I had to do it …or else…asking me to run across town to develop her purim photos for her, because she needs them immediately, (1 hour express)OR to a chasuana dress gemach to return items to them, but I managed to squeeze out one question. Ummm,,your husband,, doesnt he have a car? So she said yes but he won’t drive me anywhere.

    No one else in her family is helping her, and it almost seems dafka, and wonder if this is why. Because she takes and takes it for granted. However, if I were to stop I would feel guilty. On one hand she portrays her self to be a completely competant wife/mother/balabust ignoring my comments or words of advice for her household. In fact she usually sees herself as so superior to others in intelligence and skill..

    I am just fed up when I went to help her personally and do her laundry. She acted like I was bothering her when I asked questions like “do you need me to go buy you more bleach or stain remover”, because she was talking and laughing on the phone. Where I come from its called rude when you have someone in your house (esp. there to assist you) and you are on the phone.

    I just don’t get it. Maybe she feels that we are such “close friends” that all the formalities are annuled. Or that we don’t need apologetic pleas and thank yous. That one should not have to put down the phone in order to answer a question, but rather I needed to wait, as signalled by her pointy finger “TO WAIT”.

    I am just maybe a different type of nature who naturally expresses thanks and a sensitivty to the fellows who are going out of their way to help me by geuinely being grateful and apologetic for even asking?

    Thanks for your insight.



    Chesed begins at home. You’re not supposed to kill yourself for her because she doesn’t seem THAT helpless. You are definitely being manipulated.

    She is taking advantage of you and you should only do for her what you seriously feel like doing for her.

    Oh how I HATE when people take advantage.


    In my opinion, if you’re able to do it- do it even if you don’t want to. You will get extra schar which is what this world is about. If she is taking advantage of you, that is her problem to deal with. Everyone was put on this earth for a reason, you never know what and maybe she was put onto this earth so you can do chessed for her..


    smartteen – i LIKE that answer…


    frumladygit and SmartTeen

    I have heard shiurim and read up on Chessed. In a nutshell Chessed is doing something for someone who needs your help and who can’t do it on their own. However if someone is being lazy and is using you that is most definitely NOT chessed andis an AVEIRAH, that’s not a typo, its an Aveirah to help someone who is using you. It is Assur to use another person and by letting them use you, you are an accessory to the Aveirah. Don’t let others manipulate you into doing things for them. Its NOT Chessed! Think about it, if someone has a sickness that they manipulate and use people, if you “help” them when they ask for something you just reinforce their sickness of using others. Again, Chessed is only when they need assistance with something they can’t do alone or 100% help with something they aren’t capable of doing.

    In your case she has Bachurim who have a Mitzvas Kibbud Av Vaem. They have to go shopping for their mother, or some other relative. If your daughter does it once its a chessed, everytime is 100% using you. Tell this friend ad kan. She’s draining you and you must look out for yourself.


    smart teen as your name implies you sound very young.


    frumladygit – its easy for people to tell you to do this because it’s a chessed. To me it sounds like a classic manipulative relationship – you never asked for these favors, she’s using them in order to get something from you rather than to really help you. If she was really thinking about your needs when she does those favors, she would not be using your daughter. And btw, there is nothing wrong with bochurim learning to help out when necessary at home! My mother insists my brothers all have to do something “Real” to help out and they are all very good boys!!! Having to go shopping once a week does not mean bittul Torah.

    Anyway, having been in an analogous situation, you have several options.

    1. Continue with the situation as is. If you really need her financial bailouts, you may have no choice. Everything said above by wise member of hte CR applies.

    2. Do not accept the next offer of help, give it back to her politely saying “Thank you, but I really can manage for myself.” This way, if you do help her, it won’t be from guilt but from true chesed.

    3. 1 and 2 are more extreme options. There is a third, it’s harder but is very good in the long run. You need to stop the “she gives, I owe” cycle. Decide that your giving is not dependent on hers. If you can spare your daughter, spare her even if you haven’t recently recieved a gift. On the other hand, if it will be hard on you (or your daughter), say no even if you just recieved a major gift. This is extremely difficult in the short run, since you are used to this cycle, but if pursued consistently will enable you to feel less manipulated without giving up her assistance.

    Perhaps give her a few “free gifts”. Ie, offer to send your daughter once or twice when she doesn’t ask. Then, you will feel more comfortable the next time she does ask, saying no – you can see her next gift as an expression of gratitude and not acting as if she is entitled to your service because of the present. Then, do not send over your daughter, just politely remind her that “Oh is this because I sent over my daughter last week? Thank you!” Or whatever.

    People in the CR – It’s very easy to talk about how others should act. In this case, telling someoen that it’s chesed is a little counterproductive. We also have to know when a chesed is taking too much from a person, and not realistic to be continued because it is causing feelings of bitterness, like in the above story.


    smartteen – i LIKE that answer…

    That makes two votes.

    In her defense, I will say that she probably doesn’t realize to what extent she is burdening you. When you needed something, it was nothing for her to do it, and she probably feels its nothing for you to do a return favor for her. She doesn’t realize that different requests are not all on the same level.

    Is it possible to tell her that due to something (something REAL, not something off the top of your head) you will not be available as often anymore. That way you still help her but get to keep your sanity at the same time.

    Good luck!



    Oh I completely missed the husband point. That only strengthens the point that you have to sometimes say no. What does she do if you are not available?

    minyan gal

    This is a difficult situation. It would be different if you had a car but for her to expect you to run around the city on the bus is almost chutzpadik. It would also be different if she had no family. Just because her children are boys does not mean that they are not capable of doing some of her errands. Granted she can’t expect them to buy personal items for her but picking up some groceries or returning items are within their expertise. It is nice that she will “repay” you unexpectedly but sometimes that just doesn’t cut it. Perhaps the kindest thing that you could do for her and her family would be to set up a “household” schedule for them so that all of her family members know what is expected of them weekly. She cannot expect you and your daughter to be her personal assistants. Another thing, could you refer her to the Jewish Family Service or whatever it is called in your city. They often can send a person once or twice a week to assist in the home. To make her and her family more self-sufficient would probably be the biggest mitzvah and act of chesed. I know that you are in a difficult position but you cannot continue to run 2 households or you will burn out.


    1) Start putting down boundaries. Like “I’m going shopping on Tuesday, please have your list for me on monday night.” Make it clear you will help out once a week (or whatever it is).

    2) Is there a sisterhood committee at your shul? Can they arrange rotating help so the burden isn’t on you?

    3) Someone needs to talk to the husband or his Rav. This is his husbands responsibility. Its his child she’s carrying and he should be taking care of her – even if he doesn’t agree with her errands.

    4) If its not a necessary item (“I need another blue sweater when I have 4 to wear already, can you pick it up for me?”) learn to say NO. You don’t have to do everything.

    5) Realize that you are doing a wonderful thing and this woman may not be fully there. I have never heard anyone (except for little kids who need prompting) who don’t say please and thank you.


    You have a problem. This woman is lacking appropriate boundaries, and has found in you an accomplice for her inappropriateness. While Smartteen makes an interesting hashkafic point, it sounds to me like by doing what you are physicaly able to do (in order to get schar), you might lose your sanity! You did not mention whether this is impacting your Shalom Bayit, but I can’t imagine that it is not.

    Here are two ways you might want to consider adjusting your relationship with this woman:

    1) Gradually: the next time she asks a favor of you you can put conditions on it (ex: “Oh, you need me to pick up your dry-cleaning? No problem. i’ll be in that area Thursday and i’ll be happy to do it then”)

    2) Cold Turkey – with the intent of coming back in gradually, if necessary: when she asks a favor of you you simply tell her that you’ve realized that all of the different chessed activities you are involved in are taking away from your family time, and you need to cut back right now. As soon as your household is over this hump, you will let her know. She may get more insistent, calling more often, to test you. Stay firm with your line that you will let her know when your time has freed up a bit.

    Once she has stopped assuming you will always be there helping her, you can then decide if your want to offer something at your convenience (“I’m going to the bakery,can I pick up some Challot for you?”)

    Perhaps this isn’t the definition of “true chessed”. I am looking at it from the poster’s perspective, as someone who is obviously not “shalem” with doing the chessed the way it is being requested of her. No one person can fill the role of a “Chessed Organization”. If this woman needs help to that extent, then she should be referred to an appropriate local Organization…


    Maybe I missed something here. It sounds to me like you are afraid of her. It is perfectly acceptable to decline to do a favor that you don’t want to do. For some reason you won’t do this.

    It is your decision. Say ‘sorry, but no’ and don’t offer any more explanation.

    Why do you crave her approval so much that you degrade yourself to this level? You work for her but resent it- in my book either you are an indentured servant or you are emotionally indentured to her. Please explain if I missed something crucial.


    Wow. Thanks so much for everyone’s input. I found that every member who had 2cents to share hit the nail on the head with one true and very punching statement. I thank you all for your ideas and suggestions. It has given me something to think about.

    I appreciate everyone’s point of view, however it was only the last comment from SQUEAK that really hit the spot.

    I recognized a true sore spot in our relationship when I read your comment. I am being a pushover. And I am afraid of her. I don’t know why. I have been afraid to refuse her. Now, although I have refused her many times in the past, from now on, with Hashem’s help I will try to do it with simcha, and let it go. Not to feel intimidated.


    You should try to think very hard why you are scared to refuse her. Once you know the reason, you’ll be able to help yourself.


    I have thought into this whole business, since receiving all your insights. And have awakened, sensitively to the painful reality she must live in each time I have done a CHESED for her-what it must represent in her mind. Imagine, if she thinks favors are done as an personal investment for future need, she must have been perceiving each act of generosity or thoughtfulness on my part (done of my own initiative out of caring) to be of an intimidating nature. In other words, it makes sense why if when I see an item on sale, and which she could use, and I am anyways buying one for myself I think to get one for her but she responds cooly. And like not happy.

    This situation can reveal a lot about human psychology. People generally interpret things according to what they believe things are. She thinks acts of kindness are basically so you can get things out of others. Imagine. Each time I gave, its no wonder I did not get a thank you. It was a burden to her, in a way because she expected i’d ask something of her.


    Frumlady- do you know this or are you imagining that these are her thoughts?

    Because some people just take favors without caring. They absolutely have zero feelings of gratitude and have no problem taking advantage of others. They think the whole world owes them everything.

    Unfortunately, I know many such people.


    It sounds like squeak hit it on the nail. And, frumladygit, I don’t think she lives in a painful reality. It sounds like she looks at you as someone she can use, and by doing you a favor she now has a “right” to use you.

    And when you want to do her a favor, she is not thinking “Oh no, now I will have to do her a favor.” Trust me. she probably doesn’t feel the slightest bit obligated. Users aren’t that way. What she is probably thinking is that if she accepts the favor her ability to use you is being diminished. She might be a very good actor. Many “users and manipulators” are. They can put on certain emotions to make you feel guilty, pressured, etc. as well…

    Hatzlacha. I wish you lots of it. It may be a bit difficult to break free. I know of situations like this.


    Squeak, you have a good understanding of people.


    i havent read everything, but it sounds to me like your afraid of her. like she has this fear about her that she manipulates you to do things for her, sort of almost like the “class queens” (in classes with girls) who no one really likes and aren’t really popular but everyone is scared. They’re scared to stick up for themselves, scared to tell her she’s out… well it sounds exactly like that in an adult form. You are scared to say no, and even when you do you feel really awful about it. CHESED BEGINS AT HOME. if you are able to help others and not neglect your family great. One thing that proves that she’s a mass manipulator, and instills fear, is that she is never grateful. My advice, maybe ask a rav or someone who is very people smart to get out of this. (i know someone who had to deal with a mass manipulator in their class throughout all of their school years, they got help and they were the only one who wasn’t afraid of this “class queen”)Hatzlocho raba


    A) deep down you don’t want her favors to stop.

    B) you’re very insecure, which leads you to crave others approval (i hate to say this but i would recommend professional help, almost all terrible things ppl do, is for compliments, and to be recognized, get someone’s approval etc..)

    C) let me be the first to congratulate you, on doing the right thing, by realizing something here is not right!


    I sounds to me like you do not want to break all ties with her yet want to bring things into a more normal and controllable relationship. After all you feel that since she is on bed rest you would like to do some form of chesed for her and feel some sense of obligation to her because you do have hakaros hatov for her help and chesed to you in the past.

    Maybe you should consider prioritizing your schedules both for yourself and your daughter and include some chesed hours which you can use to help this friend. Then let her know when either you and your daughter would be available to assist her, and even give her the calendar for the week or month and suggest to her that she get other volunteers to fill in other spots so that she will know who she can call on or depend on at any given time. It can also be a very visual and helpful tool for her husband and children to see when she has help and when she doesn’t so they know full well when THEY need to pitch in and do their part.

    Maybe we each need to understand that while she goes through her nisayon (whatever it is, you didn’t say) you might be going through your own test as well. So how will you deal with it? Will you resentfully do “chesed” that you don’t want to do, or will you be honest with yourself and make the appropriate changes to do chesed appropriately?

    Dr. Pepper

    In my opinion here’s the difference between helping someone and being used by someone-

    If you would be getting paid the going rate for your services would the person have acted the same way.

    Here’s an example that happened recently-

    Two people called me and asked for help with their Regents/ Finals.

    I gave them both an hour and told them beforehand to look over the material and bring any questions they have at that time.

    Person one comes with a list of questions, watches how I solve the problems, took notes for future review and organized all my papers and his before he left.

    Person two comes in and starts doing problems until he gets stuck, asks me how to do it, says it’s too hard, he’s giving up since there’s no way he’ll pass anyway. Doesn’t bother to take the notes where I showed how to do the problem since he’ll be repeating the course over the summer.

    Person two was using me, had he been paying the going rate of $60 to $80 per hour (or whatever it is), he would have made it is business to take it more seriously. Person one, on the other hand, I was very happy to help out.

    (I’m not sure how this helps the OP but I think it answers the question of how to tell the difference between being used and doing a favor.)


    Dr. Pepper,

    The second person clearly demonstrated poor resolve and/or confidence, and poor planning and foresight by not taking any notes. But this does not necessarily show that they were simply using you.


    frumladygit & frumeyid –

    Thank you, what you said means a lot to me.

    As for next steps, I think you have the right idea about learning to say no when you don’t want to do it (and yes when you want to).

    If I can offer one piece of advice regarding these relationships (very common, both in relationships between young people and between adults), it’s this: If your efforts to gain approval are hurting your self-esteem, don’t wait too long for the other person to come around. Move on and find someone else to focus your energy on. Chances are the person who will appreciate you as a friend the way you are will accept you right away. And you will feel good about the relationship right away.

    Dr. Pepper


    I disagree with you on this.

    Had he been paying $60 for the lesson he would have made sure to get his moneys worth. Since he wasn’t paying he felt my time was free. He went in with the attitude that if he gets something out of it then great- if not- no big loss.


    WADR, it makes no difference what was going through bochur #2’s head. He made you feel unappreciated, and therefore used. Your feelings are the deciding factor because it is your time and your work and your choice about whom to give it to.


    Dr. Pepper,

    If that was his attitude “It’s free, let me squeeze out what I can.” then I would tend to agree with you.


    Granted she can’t expect them to buy personal items for her

    Why not? My mother is disabled and has been for quite a long time. And there were times when I was sent to the store to shop for various things, including “personal items.” Was it embarrassing for me, as a teenage boy to buy these things? Yes, it was — but it was also necessary. The other option was having my mother go without.

    The Wolf


    Learn to say no withOUT saying “sorry,” first. You do not need to apologize for NOT being someone’s shlepper 24/7. You can say, “I wish I could, but I am not available,” or, “I have other commitments that I must take care of, but if I have some free time, I will do my best.”

    The fact that someone expects you to to do something for her, does not obligate you to do so. And this advice is coming from someone who was exactly in your position, and did exactly the same thing as you. I finally started to feel VERY resentful of the time these unending “little errands” were taking away from my family (and my own personal free time), and came to realize that if you cannot do something with a whole heart, perhaps it is time to reassess the situation and step back. Especially so, if the woman has a husband who could and SHOULD be doing these things for her.

    Doing chessed is awesome, but you need to do chessed for your husband and children also, and it sounds from your description, that your friend is interfering with that, albeit possibly unknowingly.


    Somewhere in this thread some one must have thrown the idea out there that I am doing this for approval. This is furthest from the truth. Then this approval idea grew throughout many responses along with the idea that I sacrifice my household duties to hers. Not really. However, I have had my share of shalom bayis problems due to disagreements about how and when and how much I should help her. As always my husband has been proven right again.

    But I never felt I needed her approval. I have never felt I have done chesed for her simply for approval or love, or attention, or warmth, or even to “buy myself a friend” even as it written that one should. I simply did it for 1 of 2 reasons. Either I felt I had to/ pressured, and felt guily or manipulated or like I “had to” or #2. Because I felt rachmonis and honestly truly wanted to give her help/a gift/ an errand/free help -whatever it was. Usually those are of my own creative time and inititive on my own personal outings.

    The only thing that bothers me is not once has she ever responded like a “normal reaction” like I get from the majority of neighbors or friends. Like “What is this? You went out of your way for me? Oh you shouldn’t have.” ETC. But I almost feel resentful ONLY after having given out of the goodness of my heart because its met with an attitude of how I could have improved/pleased her better/or requests for more/or show of no gratitude.

    I am only angry because I want her to just respond normally. And secondly not call me up with these ridiculous requests like can you go to the moon for me, cause they have kitty kibbles there. Its absolute chutzpah. I owe her nothing. Except a monetary debt.

    I say NO a lot more than I may have portrayed, in the above initial question. Because I just can’t. Practically cannot. But I am so irritated someone can be like this. The harder I run or the faster I go its like I am getting the whip.

    I just wanted to yell at her …I am here to help you do physical housework and you are putting me on hold with the wave of your finger, so you can enjoy a good long phone conversation while I basically beg you that I can go buy you stain remover..that was one instance where she actually acted like I was of no use.

    So having said all this. I have learned to be strong, detach and my new rule is I will probablly continue to help her in ways that i can that don’t involve me or my daughter personally, and in ways that don’t drain me. Or involve “using me”.

    By the way, off topic SQUEAK…what happened to talking to bats? LOL I think that was so funny.



    If you asked me it seems clear you are being used and taken for granted. There are users out there and one has found you. I think you should seriously discuss your feelings about this with your husband and do what you both agree is the best course of action based on the facts.


    Your friend is a bloodsucker, a parasite, that you are only ensbling. It seems like she needs some permanent arrangements here. If you help her get a home health aide or a companion, and maybe help arrange this through her medical insurance, that would be a mitzvah and real chesed. If she is so crippled that she is useless to herself, than she needs someone to provide care on a long-term basis. This is not your duty. if she paid you for doing her errands for her, etc. than that would be different. Get her in touch with an agency and see what they can do for her.

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