Selfish or SelfLess Deeds?

Linkin’ Park’s lyrics express it soo well:

“I watch how the moon sits in the sky on a dark night
Shining with the light from the sun
But the sun doesn’t give the light to the moon assuming,
The moon’s gonna owe it one”

I’m used to people doing favors with expectations of getting something in return, even if I didn’t ask for help. It’s nice to give back, but it does get tiring “owing” people, especially when we owe so much in life already (financially, loans, debt). I start to question humans’ genuineness, whenever a person, especially someone I barely know, wants to be generous to me. But after a particular awkward situation, a spark of hope occurred, which dawned on me that I should learn be less SUSPICIOUS of others who truly don’t want anything back.

When someone does you a favor, the worse debts “owed” seem to be the non-monetary debts. Setting aside dark horror stories of the mafia & crime life, maybe you have experienced first hand, a friend, family, or significant other, voluntarily helping you without being asked, then later finding out that you owed them back. One day they use that favor to come back to haunt you. They request something you can’t give or refuse to give, and so that person brings up… “Remember the time, when I did [fill in the blank] for you?? Why won’t you do this for me?” Maybe they even top it off with, “I thought we were [friends, family, significant others].” Ouch. Then the next thing you know, you’re on a guilt trip, going down on your hands and needs, and out of your way to return the favor.

As I mentioned, I’ve been down that road as far as I could remember. I’m not talking about the reasonable understood things we “owe” as a friend, family, significant other, like treating each other with respect, (you have my back I have yours kind of thing). I’m talking about individuals taking advantage of doing a not-so-selfless-deed, (aka self ish deed), with an expectation of something in return.

As a child, if I recall, it was the help of homework and friendship invitations that led me to “owe” allowing people to borrow money, which my parents gave me for emergencies. Then as a teen, I felt trapped into “owing” again, letting someone borrow about $100-$200 dollars, when I was working near $7 minimum wage. It was the only money I had. Sometimes my money/things were stolen by people I trusted, and then when I confronted, they’s say that they’re only “borrowing.” Though I grew up wearing hand-me-down clothes, shopping at tag sales, bringing in cold lunches, and thinking $20 was A LOT of money, ironically the worse things I “owed” in life wasn’t money– it was time and material goods.

Growing up other kids gave me a holiday gifts or birthday gifts, and expected something wonderful in return; that was the deal point blank. Due to cultural differences, I learned more about holidays, Valentine’s, “grab bags,” and birthdays through my classmates and teachers, so for awhile, I did expect gifts. Then at some point in my life I felt holidays and birthdays were meaningless and all about the gifts. (That could explain why I REALLY mean it when I say don’t give me gifts for my birthday/holidays). Maybe it was the combo of struggling to come up with the budget to spend, and wondering why people wanted so much. Maybe it was after a few friendship disasters of being used and abused, that I wanted so badly friends to just be there, (without any gifts attached). It always haunted me when two former friends in high school, flipped out about me to others, because I only gave them cards & chocolates for the holidays, (even though the irony was that they didn’t give me anything). It was one of the worst feelings which carried over each year when the holidays rolls around.

As for “owing” time; if give out an invitation, some people take it as them doing me a favor by accompanying me. Then later on I suddenly find myself being invited to events that they don’t want to be at, but want me to drag me along to accompany them. “Hey.. I went to with you to your event and kept you company. Why won’t you keep me company too?” Makes me think twice sometimes before inviting people.

I don’t know why I couldn’t just say “No.” It was so easy to make me feel guilty. I guess you could say I was easily manipulated. As soon as someone uses the guilt trip by bringing up a time that they did something for me (even if I never asked for help in the 1st place), I would feel that I did owe them something back. It was always embedded into my mind and it never went away. So I automatically assume as an adult that whenever someone does something for me, I “owe” them back. It’s also human nature, to not want to disappoint/upset someone close to you, or risk losing a friendship, family or relationship by not fulfilling that return. But in reality, what they did in the first place, were selfish deeds, (not selfless deeds), and really pinning me in a corner to give something back. If it was really a selfless deed, they wouldn’t expect or require something in return.

But there are societal rules we should take or “owe” as a friend, family or significant other. This is a different story, because those are the roles we take on, to be able to keep such titles. As a friend, it’s a given that we allow our friends to confide in us and that we don’t push them to the curb for doing so. As family, we’re there when someone’s in trouble, take care of our children or siblings. As a significant other, we expect faithfulness from our partner, trust and loyalty.

Getting to the awkward situation, recently, I met this young professional (like me), at a business networking event who requested to meet again over coffee. After what I’ve been through, as explained in this post: Blind-sightings, Deception, and Obstacles in Career and Business I automatically felt very cautious, full of distrust and built a wall against anyone who approached me for anything. I think many who give so much and put their trust in so many people, but then is ultimately betrayed, feels the same confusion and start questioning everyone’s motives. 

The business meeting was about partnering up, me providing web services to his clients and him servicing any contacts of mine as well. At some point, out of the blue, he offered to help me in anything business related, even though the thought never crossed my mind to ask for any help, and he literally said “Use me,” as a resource, he means. I immediately thought in my mind What does this guy want from me back? and blurted out, “What are you getting out of this?” He had a blank stare for a moment and I think it was another awkward moment I created. He responded, “I want to help because it’s the right thing to do.” Sadly, I couldn’t comprehend that phrase; there was another awkward silence, blank stare and I probably unintentionally had the most skeptical look on my face. That’s when he suggested that he would refer me to his clients with the request for me to refer him to anyone who might need his services. That sounds like a reasonable exchange.

If he didn’t say anymore and just left it as “It’s right thing to do.” it would have been less believable to me. It’s like when you’re at a bar and don’t have a drink in your hand and a stranger asks to buy you a drink and that’s when you assume that he/she wants a phone number, conversation, or a date. It would feel impolite to accept and not give something in return. 

But after replaying the business meeting in my head and thinking that there must be something more that I’m not being told, it finally hit me, What the heck am I doing? What am I thinking? This guy seems really genuine. It dawned on me that I’m being too quick to distrust and that maybe he genuinely just wants to help without expecting anything in return. I sometimes forget that I have friends who do things without expecting anything in return, yet I still keep tabs on their selfless deeds, so that I can repay them back later anyways. 

The combination of being exposed to an environment (and possibly a society) filled with individuals who do selfish deeds and betray those who put trust in them so much, is likely the root of me putting up a wall of defense to avoid being taken advantage of, and a program in my head that says “I owe everyone back.. or else.” It’s almost like an invisible gun to my head, that if I don’t– there will be consequences, like losing a friend, family, or business relationship. Better safe than sorry… right? But I want to break down this barrier and stop letting it hinder my judgement with people. I don’t want it to destroy potential friendships and business opportunities. The truth is, there are people out there who truly do selfless deeds. Look around you of who’s been there for you and dig a little harder.

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