“If someone does ALOT for you do you OWE them?”

Question: If someone does ALOT for you do you OWE them? And if you want to return the favor, but what they want is just not something you want to or are willing to do does that make you bad, ungrateful, unappreciative, etc? Is that a personal boundary thing or a being selfish thing...the saying no, even though they have done a lot for you? Your thoughts...

I told her that I don’t have answers, but I always have opinions. :)

I guess I look at doing things for others a little differently. If someone does A LOT for me like the question asked, I’d like to return the gesture because it makes me feel good to do so. I don’t however believe that it is owed. People should just do nice things for each other with good intention. I would have to question someone who does something for me with the intent to have the favor returned. That isn’t the spirit of true giving to me. I’ve often said, I like to do good things and then run away and not look for a reaction, far less the favor returned.

I guess I would also have to question if someone would ever ask you to do something you’d be potentially unwilling to do. What does that say about them and their inability to read you? What does that say about their reasons for doing so much for you to begin with? Overall, I believe people should do good things with the correct motivation which I believe is supposed to be from a pure heart. I also don’t think a returned favor is indicative of being grateful or appreciative. If someone is in need, they are simply in need.

I’m not sure I dig the word favor anyways. When you say to someone, “Hey can you do me a favor?” you are asking them to do something despite them not wanting to. “Sorry to bother you” kind of falls in that category too. The favor bank is something people accumulate in the business Rolodex but I’m not sure it should apply to just helping people in their time of need.

You might be right to say they are testing your boundaries. I would say it has nothing to do with being selfish although I still don’t think they should do things for you based on a potential good gesture coming back to them.

I would say though, I would need to ask myself if this person who has helped me truly needs my help and are they suffering to the point where I really should bend my rules to help. Say their house has flooded and they need a place to keep their pets temporarily; are you going to say no because you simply don’t like animals? I think we all need to be pliable enough in certain scenarios. The question here though is sounding more like the ‘favor’ mindset is at the heart of it.

I believe Society’s answer to moving ahead is pay it forward, not pay it back (unless it’s money owing). If we were all busy looking ahead or at least paying attention to who needs us, we wouldn’t be busy making friends feel guilty. I would have no problem telling someone I am unwilling to do something that was outside of my character. I’ve had some men in my life who hooked me up with a contact, then asked me to go on a date and when I would say no, I’d have it thrown back in my face. It’s a trap that nobody should have to feel bad about saying no to. That is how codependent relationships happen; a person keeps a running total of the good things they do for you, then when the time is right, they want to ‘cash it in’. They might even prop you up to the point where you can’t escape. I think it’s really important to recognize that sort of ill-intent from them early on and cut it off even if it means you don’t move up the ladder sooner. That is the story of my career in the music business. It’s happened with managers, agents, labels etc…people who do good things for me and make sure I am constantly reminded they are doing good things for me. I think the only time a person should use it as ammunition is when they are attacked for no reason. Even then, I think the classier thing to do is just walk away with your character in check. It is the most precious thing we have.

If they choose to be angry with you for saying no, I would strongly suggest questioning their intent. It sounds sketchy to me. In the meanwhile, if you feel strongly about doing something nice for someone, I would do it and not ask them to pick the returned favor. Sometimes when we say, “I’d like to do something nice back for you…what would you like?” the answer might not be what you want to hear.

Giving hugs and then running away…

Karen :)

One can never pay in gratitude: one can only pay 'in kind' somewhere else in life.” ~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

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