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Ask Dave

He Stopped Giving

Mae says her father is a wealthy man and used to give generous yearly gifts. Her mother now has Alzheimer's, and he's stopped giving. Mae wants to know if she should approach him about it.

QUESTION: Mae in Los Angeles says her father is an extremely wealthy man. When her mother wasn’t sick, he would give Mae and her brother each a yearly gift. Mae used the money to pay for her kids’ private schooling. Her mother now has Alzheimer’s, and he’s stopped giving the gifts. Mae is surprised and wants to know if she should approach him about it. Dave explains that he’s hurting.

ANSWER: It’s sad for him because what this is he’s hit the default button and dropped back to his default methodology. We all have some. He’s doing that because he’s hurting. He’s lost a part of himself with your mom. He depended on her more than you all realize—more than just for influence in giving. He depended on her for a lot of things. It’s like a part of him is withering away with her. He’s really, really hurting. That’s what’s so sad here. Him gathering up and holding things tightly because one thing is slipping away from him out of his control is his reaction.

I think you just pray for him because I think he’s hurting. I think you’re kind to him. You go on about your life. You don’t need his money. He needs to give it because it’s good for him to learn to give, but if he never gave you another dime, you wouldn’t care as long as he was healthy, right? I thought I heard you were worried about your dad. Can I not care about you and not give you money? If the only way that you receive love is to have a check attached to it, then that’s on you.

I do think that what you feel like is an act of greed or an act or a kind of hardness is probably an act of hurt. He’s hurting. I really do believe that. I’m kind of a self-made guy like that, and I’m very generous. I’m a big giver, but I can see myself doing that kind of a thing if I was hurting, so I can kind of relate to that. And it is his. The statements he’s making are not untrue. They just reflect that he’s not walking in a generous spirit, which is not healthy for him. He won’t have fun with life doing that. You have more fun when you’re giving. You really do. That contributes to your wholeness and your happiness. His wholeness and happiness is being affected is what I’m saying.

I think you’re just kind to him, and what I would do if I were in your shoes is number one, adjust any expectations or mindset about you ever receiving another dime of his. Just never again ever think that you’re going to. Then, based on that, this relationship has just changed. What am I going to do with my dad? He’s hurting. He’s not doing a good job. This is not bringing him happiness. I’ll just pray for him. But you never approach him again with the spirit of he needs to be giving. Any money you get from him, you should be shocked and surprised from this point forward. If you’ll adjust your expectations to that, you’ll start thinking of him differently and then you may see what I’m seeing. It would be great for him if he just had a project with the homeless or a project with Alzheimer’s patients that he gave to. It’s just good for people to give because it changes who you are as a person. If I were to counsel him, it might be to cut you guys off but give to somebody else. Give to something else.

I think you’ve kind of got this thing going in your head, the way you’ve worded some of that, that somehow he’s become a bad person and the only good part of him was your mom and now that she’s disconnected… I don’t think that’s the case at all. I think he was a good person all along with your mom, and he’s hurting. He hit the default button while he’s hurting, and that’s what’s causing this behavior that’s kind of unlike him. Reset your life and your expectations, and that will enable you to be more kind towards him and your perception of him.