About doing good to others

Not that we do good to make people feel obliged, but often the outcomes are surprising. We always extend a helping hand — in monitory terms and other ways — whenever we can, to people who need help. For instance, we got Vasudha’s previous maid (around 15 years) admitted to a school. My wife went with her, met with the principal, and bought books and dresses for her. When she was caught letting our daughter eat mud in the play ground (our daughter was around 3 then and the maid was simply looking at her while she ate the mud — Alka saw it from the balcony) we asked her to leave. Then we thought, well, let us give her another chance, as she had just started going to the school (she used to come to our place after her school and still we paid for the entire day) and we thought it’d be very bad for her to leave. So we called her back while she was leaving.

In the evening her mother came and said her daughter was not going to work for us as we had yelled at her. Although we told her the reason, she said no. Then my wife told her that her behavior was totally uncalled for, especially when we had got her daughter admitted to a school and we were still worried for her schooling despite how nasty she had acted. Her reply: I never asked you to get her admitted.

Although it never crossed our minds that they should feel grateful or something, but by this we were totally caught off guard.

Similarly there have been many incidents in which we were simply trying to help people and instead of acknowledging they simply made us feel as if we had to gain something out of it.

So, we’ve been quite confused. Why do people act so nasty even when you are so nice with them? I found a partial answer today while reading “Of Human Bondage” by Somerset Maugham.

Thinking he had done a generous thing, he had expected that Monsieur Ducroz would overwhelm him with expressions of gratitude. He was taken aback to find that the old teacher accepted the present as though it were his due. He was so young, he did not realise how much less is the sense of obligation in those who receive favours than in those who grant them.

“he did not realise how much less is the sense of obligation in those who receive favours than in those who grant them.”

Whether this is right or wrong, it does manage to explain a bit.

5 thoughts on “About doing good to others

  1. Suvro Chatterjee

    I have written time and again on this theme on my blog, Amrit: I know just how much it hurts. The fact of life is that there a great many people who won’t do you any favours at all unless they can see some immediate material gain in return; there are also numberless people who quickly forget favours received, and even reward you with gross insults. It cuts across all class and other barriers. I think the only way we can keep both our sanity and humanity is by never expecting anything in return for favours received, not even gratitude. Do what good you want to, but only because it makes you feel good. And grow a thick skin!

  2. Mai Harinder Kaur

    This comes under the category of “no good deed goes unpunished.”

    Many, many people also confuse niceness with weakness and despise the nice person.

    I think you probably don’t follow the concept od sewa, but I find it useful to think of anything I do good for someone as along those lines. It is service to humanity and the common good as well as to the individual directly involved. I try to look for nothing in return (I often don’t succeed) and try to accept graciously whatever gratitude or ingratitude I am confronted with.

    And Suvro Chatterjee ji is absolutely correct. A thin skin is necessary. Just, please, let that thick skin still cover a soift heart.

  3. Incognito

    Lately indians have acquired the tendency, no doubt taught by ‘secular’ ‘socialist’ ‘moralizing’ ‘intellectuals’, of treating people ‘the same’, ‘equally’.

    So when they see somebody in an underprivilged background, they feel as though they should help that person, they feel all compassion, daya, altruistic feelings, and think that by helping that ‘underprivileged’ person thus, they are doing tremendous good for society, contributing to betterment of people.

    This actually flies in the face of ancient indian wisdom- that people make progress through their self-efforts, not through hand outs received from others. Unless the other person sincerely desires to move out of the situation s/he finds him/herself in, s/he cannot make progress.

    It also goes against the concept that people come with karmika samskara, that they need to actualize. Inconsiderate do-gooders may be depriving those people of that opportunity.

    The brahmanas of yore, the people who produced the veda, lived by begging alms or foraging in forest mostly.

    Nowadays beggars are considered depraved/’underprivileged’ and shown compassion.

    What is the compassion towards anyway ?

    That you happen to have more material riches than the other person ?
    But what is material riches ?
    What is this body and the riches that one seems to enjoy ?
    This body, that is deteriorating day by day, and is transient, these riches, that never give permanent satisfaction, are these worthy to be considered rich enough to feel compassion towards the other person who appears to not have these ?

    Like the chandaala asked Adi Shankaracharya, who should move away, the brahma that is all-pervading or the physical body ?,- who is poor, who is rich, when the atman does not possess anything ?
    Why do you feel rich about transient insignificant material possessions ?

    The first step may be to realize ourselves.
    Then we would discern who needs to be helped towards karmic actualisation, and otherwise.

    Sometimes the ‘compassion’ may be triggered by impulse instilled by the ‘moralistic’ society, which expects people to feel such feelings, and people are thus obliged to show those feelings, lest they be considered ‘selfish’, politically incorrect.

    The way the powers that be have programmed people to behave in the way they want is marvellous. Societal expectation is brought upon people to behave in certain predictable manner and to ‘conform’. These are the tricks by which monotheistic westerners have been controlling peoples for millenniums.

    Western concepts of identifying entirely with physical body and considering material possessions as riches, definitely needs to be given their deserving place- permanently in dustbin.

    The above is a generic comment on ‘compassion’ that is generated in society, not in anyway specific to the experience the blogger mentions.

    dhanyavaad, namaste.

  4. david

    Pride maybe.

    It’s the same sort of single mindedness people take up when defending beliefs they really really really believe in.

    In order to defend their position of being right, they changed their perception of the situation to that where you HAD something to gain.

    From which they can further lower your status. Otherwise they’d had to admit you to be good samaritans, which really wouldn’t sit well with the “I’m right” argument.

    1. dave

      to add further. It’s a choice basically, either I’m wrong and bad person, or YOU are. Personal ego and self preservation comes first.

      Didn’t Bush seem to actually believe that there are people in the world who hate liberty and freedom and w/e and for THAT reason, have attacked us…or something like that….

      A really rather common example of preservation of self image is with relationships.

      Most guys SHOULD admit that there is a person out there better than them in many ways. Say patience, understanding, looks, genes, athletic ability, social status, or amount of money. Does that guy say “I’m not good enough for you, let me go and find this OTHER guy for you.”

      In order the actually maintain the relationship and not fall prey to the “If you love her, you’ll let her go.” argument, the guy would have to deceive himself that he IS better than the other guy. “You may be better than me at everything, but I’m better FOR HER.” (Also, I’m 100% my love trumps your love)


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