Mother/Saint Teresa wasn’t as completely unselfish as what we’ve been made to believe or she would have us believe. Are you gasping at that statement yet? I’m sure that you are if you know anything about the woman. Yes, no doubt whatsoever she did many wonderful things for others throughout her life and devoted herself to helping others but, at the bottom line of her acts of kindness, laid perhaps, what one could consider a “selfish reason” for doing it. Her quote above, says it right out. Can you spot it? Don’t worry if you can’t. It’s disguised but once you’ve read more, you’ll get it too.
We’ve all had someone do something for us. We’ve all done something for someone else. We’ve all been given birth to and most of us, have had parents who worked hard and raised us. We may be parents ourselves, working hard to be good parents or even correct what went wrong in our own upbringing. We have family, friends, co-workers and even strangers that we’ve done something for or many things including strangers. However, the bottom line is that we don’t owe anything to anyone and they don’t owe us anything other than perhaps, financially.
How can I say that?
I’m going to be shocking here in answering that question for a reason.
Our parents (if we had them…hey, some were abandoned, abused, neglected or walked off on) gave us life. For those who had parents who did raise them with at the least love and provided us with the necessities of life, likely sacrificing some sleep and even a lot more for us. Actually, they probably gave up quite a bit for us. They likely tried to be the best parents that they knew how to be.
“Hey, wait a minute here. I’ve sacrificed a lot of my life to be a good mom/dad to my children too,” you may be saying right now. “I think I’m owed something from my children. At the least, they owe me love and attention.”
Really? Do they really owe you anything?
We’d expect that our children would be in debt to us and at the least, be around us. That would make perfect sense, wouldn’t it? Isn’t there some type of moral law that states that they owe us something, somewhere, somehow after all that we’ve given up for them?
What about friends? Don’t they owe it to me to pay me back for all of the times that I was there, supported and helped them out? Don’t they owe it to me to repay my loyalty to them?
Maybe, you feel that being a sibling means that blood connections mean that they owe us their life-long devotion. After all, they are the same blood as us, right? Blood should stay true to blood?
Whatever situation or people you can think of right now, there’s a simple concept that most of us can’t grasp because we feel that we are owed something in return or that we owe someone else for something that they did for us. Is it true? Doesn’t it work that way? If not, why not?
Here’s the reality of things. I warned above that it may be shocking.
They don’t owe us and we don’t owe them.
Is your jaw open, hanging down to your knees yet? Perhaps, you already have figured this much out and congratulations if you have done so. A lot of others haven’t yet grasped this concept or why so, let’s explore this idea more if you don’t already understand it.
Logically, we tell ourselves that we are owed and we owe others. That comes from emotion, want, need and even rationale that we’ve built or have been instilled in us by others, religion, parents, culture or whatever the source may have been. It’s not fully true nor, is it reality. Note that I’m not talking about financially here. That’s a whole other debate. What I’m meaning here is that no matter what we do for others, give up, sacrifice or break our backs to do to help someone else or, vice versa, we don’t owe them anything and in spite of what we’ve done for them, they don’t owe us either. That’s true for one simple reason.
We or they, CHOSE to do what we or they have done.
That’s right. We didn’t ask to be born (at least, not that we know of anyway). Our parents chose to have a child or children and all that it entailed. Even if they didn’t choose to have us and we were what we’ll call “Oooppps Babies” (the mistakes), if they raised us, they chose to do so. Even if their parents forced them into keeping us due to religious or cultural beliefs etc., they chose to follow their parent’s expectations and raise us no matter what they had to give up to do so. Likewise, if we are parents now, our children didn’t ask us to be born. We chose to have them and do whatever it took to look after them. Is that sinking in yet?
In other words, even friends and favours we’ve done for them or help we’ve given them or vice versa, may be nice gestures but, we or they, chose to do so even if they asked us to do it or we asked for them to do it. All of us chose to do what we’ve done. We didn’t have to do it. We chose to do it or they chose to do it. That means that we don’t owe them anything because it was their choice or our choice.
“Wait a minute though,” you may be saying right about now. “I chose to help so-and-so or they helped me but, isn’t that expected in a relationship of any kind? It’s give and take, isn’t it?”
Morally, yes, that’s what one would expect from others but, realistically, that’s not how Life necessarily works. One can’t do something for someone, give them love or friendship and expect the same in return. While we should be able to count on that “law” so to speak, whatever we do, we do because we choose and want to do it for whatever reasons we may have but, it doesn’t mean that others necessarily owe us or, for the same reasons, we owe them anything. It was all purely our choices for our own reasons. However, here’s something more shocking to come to realize.
Our choices in doing for others has more to do with us than it does them for the most part.
If you were to look at anything you’ve done for someone else, did you do it for them solely? Be honest with yourself here. There are all kinds of reasons why we do what we choose to do for others. Here are a few of the most common reasons.
- I owed it to them for what they have done for me.
- It’s what they asked me to do
- They expected it from me, after all, I am their (fill in the blank…friend, daughter, son, grandchild, niece, nephew, boyfriend, girlfriend….) and isn’t that what we do?
- No one else was going to help them so, I had to do it
- Society expects me to do it
That list can become endless. Add a few of your own as to why you did something for someone else or why you felt that you owed it to them to do it.
No matter which way you look at every reason, short of someone else having a gun to your head to force you into doing something for them or vice versa, them putting a rifle to your head to push you into action, the reality is, you chose to do it for them and they chose to do it for you.
“But, why? Why would I choose to do it or expect them to do it?” you may be questioning.
You do it for yourself.
One way or another, you are getting something out of what you do for others. You don’t owe it to them but, you choose to do it because you benefit from doing it in one way or another. How?
- By doing for others, you feel good about yourself
- You get rid of some form of guilt that has been ingrained or levied onto you
- You enjoy the feeling of being a help and can pat yourself on the back for it
- It makes you feel superior in some way even if you didn’t consciously intend it to be that way.
- You set up a “tab” whereby they will owe you a favour in the future
- You’re pleasing someone else so maybe you’ll be loved or liked more
This list is only partial but, it contains some of the most common reasons why you feel you owe it to someone else. The bottom line is that it benefits you in some way or another. Guilt and making you feel good about yourself are likely the top 2 reasons but, suffice it to say that you do what you do for you no matter which way you spin it and others, are doing things for you for the same reasons.
In other words, what someone else has done for you, you feel that you owe them something in return but, it’s not necessarily how it works out in reverse. Others don’t always feel that they owe you anything as an exchange so, consequently, you don’t owe them anything either.
On each side, there’s a balance and check system whereby, people do what suits them first and foremost. If they hold the same values that you put into their relationship with you that you do with them, they will reciprocate in kind but, if they don’t feel the same way that you do, you simply have to swallow the idea that they don’t owe it to you. You chose to do it for them for yourself and your own feelings and reasons. Likewise, you don’t owe anyone anything either. If they did something for you, they really did it for you for their own reasons and self-gain in one way or another.
Are we all selfish? Are we all out to only look after #1…ourselves?
The bottom line is a simple answer.
YES…we do it for ourselves and they do it for theirs even if we all disguise it within and for ourselves and others around us do the same.
What does this teach us though?
This teaches us that we on one level or another, we will help others for all sorts of personal reasons. No matter which way we look at it though, the end line is that somewhere, deep inside of us we feel we can benefit somehow. We’re not as altruistic as we think we are being nor, as self-sacrificing as we would like to believe we are. It doesn’t always work that we benefit from the person(s) we do things for though. Frankly, we can’t expect that it will but even when it doesn’t work out to a mutually beneficial reward system whereby, we get back what we give out, we have gotten something out of what we’ve done for someone else even if it’s simply that we have no regrets, guilt or remorse. We may feel angry, hurt, upset or a plethora of other emotions when someone else didn’t reciprocate in return but, the fact remains that we did receive or get something out of doing whatever we did. We did what we thought we should do but, in reality on some perhaps, deeper level, we really did it for ourselves if we’re being honest or whether we choose to see it or not.
In summing this up, we don’t owe anyone anything and they don’t owe us anything either. Again, we are not talking about financially here as that’s a whole other story. We’re all doing whatever it is that we need to do in order to gain something out of it one way or another and, we do get something out of it even if not from the person or people we’ve done it for. Even as a parent, sacrificing everything we’ve got for our child/children, we are getting something out of that sacrifice. We chose to have our child/children. We are doing everything that we can do to give them a good life but, we may or may not get that type of dedication from our child or children. On another level, we do it because we expect ourselves to do it. That way, we can look back and tell ourselves that we did a good job as a parent and lull ourselves into the idea that no matter what happens, we did a great job as parents, having no remorse, regret or whatever. However, we don’t have the right to expect that they will look after us or give us love in return. That’s not the way it works necessarily. That’s what we feel that we’re owed because we did what we have done for others or someone else but at the end of the day, they really don’t owe us anything. We chose to give them life and no matter how much we gave up or are giving up so that they can have the best life we can give to them, they didn’t ask to be born. We chose it. The same holds true for everything else that we do for other people in Life. No one owes anyone and, we all got something out of it in one way or another even if it was peace of mind or feeling good about ourselves.
If it goes no further than that, we’re still ahead in spite of our grudges, hard-done-by feelings, anger, bitterness, upset and wonderment.
Hard concept to grasp and accept, isn’t it? There’s more that I’d like to share and will share with you in upcoming pieces. However, for now that’s the reality behind the concept of owing and being owed.
Now, go back to Mother/Saint Teresa’s quote at the start of this piece. Can you spot something in what she was actually saying now that you’ve read all of this and hopefully, understand how people think, deep down inside? If not, think about it more fully and let it sink in. I’ll have more on this idea in pieces to come but for now, recognize that no matter what you do or what someone else does, you or they are making choices and are truly getting something out of it even if not from the person or people you’ve done it for. At the least, it’s the way that I’m now seeing things from my little corner of life.
If you have any comments or would like to discuss this further or even simply offer up your opinion or insight, please do by commenting below. Keep it respectful and not a personal attack in any way, please.
Be well, Blessings, Love and Light
Have a wonderful day or evening.