“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit…”
Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about the definition of giving without expecting anything in return.
Several years ago my life was not in a good place. My career was floundering, a relationship had fallen apart and I was struggling financially. Often, I felt how much I would have benefited having someone who would be willing to give me a few pointers.
This time of need has stuck with me ever since, and as things have got better with my situation, I’ve wanted to make sure to give freely when I can, without the expectation of personal gain (except the satisfaction of knowing I’ve done something nice to help out another human being).
If I offer something to you think of it as a gift – I’m not doing it expecting you to return the favour, it can be my time, money or words, I don’t care, it yours.
The problem with being altruistic…
When you do this, you find peoples natural instinct is to wonder what the catch is, or feel they have to return the favour.
In many ways I don’t blame them, this lack of trust that someone can’t do something kind without expecting something in return is probably why the legal system is a big as it is. A fear that the giver will expect payment in return.
Personally, I hate the feeling that I’m in someone’s debt – even small things like going to a bar, if someone buys a round, I try to match them round for round.
This can make a time where your supposed to be relaxing quite stressful as you become engaged watching your friends drink, to make sure they don’t finish it and nip to the bar, where you find yourself two rounds down!
In these types of situations, you can take it wrong, but my friends don’t mean anything by it, they are not thinking I can’t afford my own drinks, they are simply sharing their generosity in the form of alcohol.
And if people are giving without expecting, then what’s the issue?
Well, that happens when you’re not sure if the persons intentions are noble, or if they are actually looking for you to reciprocate, not necessarily offering what they did, but wanting something else which benefits them.
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”Charles Dickens
This happened to me with a former work colleague who was always quick to buy me drinks. I translated this as a friendly gesture, he was my senior, so I assumed he simply following basic leadership, making sure his troops were provided for.
But whenever we got talking informally something didn’t feel right, he seemed a bit too interested in another colleague, always changing the topic back to ask me questions about what she was doing. I realised afterwards that as his equivalent, she was his main competition for a promotion that was rumoured to be coming up and he was pumping me for any information he could use against her, to his advantage.
It’s a stark reminder not everyone plays by the same rules you do.
The unwritten rule of expectation
This year I’m putting more work into getting exposure for my writing, which has involved throwing myself out of my comfort zone, by being more open about self-promoting my content.
This has led to getting more involved with bloggers Twitter. It has it’s positives, but there are also things I don’t like about it.
It can feel to be less about engagement and building relationships with like-minded folk, and more about plugging content away, hoping for quick validation.
Personally this approach doesn’t seem sustainable and offers little long-term benefit – sure you get a spike in visitors, but you have to pursue this like a day job!
Follow for Follow, Retweet for Retweet, Pin for Pin, Comment for Comment – it’s a slippery slope to go down, as when you follow the “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine”, you don’t actually know if anyone genuinely likes your work, or are only doing it in the hope you are going to give something back.
The end result is no new readers to your blog and a social media accounts containing thousands of people who have nothing to say that interests you.
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”Winston Churchill
Whether it’s WordPress, Twitter, Instagram – if I follow you it’s because I’ve checked out your content and thought you were interesting enough to follow, and if I comment on your post it’s because it’s genuinely said something which relates to me, not because I want you to return the favour.
For me personally when I blog (or do anything), I’m doing it because I’m hoping I can make someone’s life a little better, not because I want them to reciprocate.
“Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.”Roy T. Bennett
It’s a bit like if you decide to donate to a food bank, you’re doing it because you want to help out families going through a hardtime, making their life a little bit easier, not because you expect them to return the favour and come round your house to drop a few tins of beans off in return.
If you are giving without any sincerity, and deep down want something, then all your doing is carrying out a transaction.
- give generously when you can.
- if someone gives to you then simply say “thank you” and don’t let ego get involved.
- don’t give with expectation of payback
- when you give, don’t rub it in the receivers face every time, saying they “owe you one”
Mostly, give without expecting anything in return.
“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.”Ben Carson
<<next post: What Are You Grateful For?>>
Thanks for reading, wishing you the best in your success.
James @Perfect Manifesto.
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