There is a big difference between believing someone used you and believing someone ended-up growing from your time together, interactions and experiences.
I’ve been called a user a number of times in my life and each time I took what the person said as fact, for a little while. But it’s a lot easier to deal with when I hear it now. I’m incapable of using someone because I know that people are responsible for their own actions and decisions. I’m too authentic to lie so when a comment like that is directed at me, I do what I do. Try it on to get a feeling for what it’s like and then empathize with the other person for feeling that way. “What in their life taught them to believe what they believe?”
This is no longer an active task, it’s what I do automatically.
There are no shortage of people into which I have invested my time, energy and unconditional love. Many of them are gone, many did not return the investment directly to me, and that is something that I am as grateful for as for those who did return it. For me, the lessons come from both the giving and the NOT receiving. The checks and balances serve the cultivation of my character when they are not equal. I grow more from not getting in return than I do from “fair payment” or direct reciprocity.
Wisdom is the return for effort, attention and activity and it takes a long time to foster. Life may be long and I’m growing more certain that as it continues that any investment into other people, the earth and the universe is actually an investment into myself because my world gets better when the world gets better.