Wednesday, April 17, 2013

For Goods & Services Rendered

Another installment in my 20 Things series: #5 "Do things for people because you want to, not because you expect something in return. It'll save you a lot of heartache and resentment."

Cultural norms around these parts are not like those of other places (duh). One of these norms is marrying young. Both by choice of my own and from lack of a suitable suitor, I didn't get married the first time around until I was 24. Which is right on the heels of "old maid" status around here. Looking back I realize just how young 24 really is, but I digress. There were many lessons I learned through those extra years of dating. I'd say 90% of those lessons weren't exactly fun to experience, but 100% of what I learned was, and still is incredibly useful to me. I'm glad I learned early on and I'm grateful for the extra time I was given to grow and develop myself.  

Several years ago I read "The 5 Love Languages" and determined that my 'love language' is acts of service. I don't always do the best at telling people I love them or writing heartfelt cards. It's easier for me to show someone I love them by doing things for them.

During my dating years this was a blessing and curse. It was a blessing in the sense that it weeded out a lot of guys that didn't appreciate the things I did for them, and a curse in that it was heartbreaking when someone didn't reciprocate and/or appreciate me in return. I would plan a nice birthday dinner or clean a bachelor pad kitchen, detail a car or make cookies. Time after time these nice gestures were overlooked-- sometimes without so much as a 'thank you.' Here I'd done this thing to show how much I cared and wasn't shown the same appreciation and generosity in return.

Of course after this happened over and over again I began to feel resentful and used. I couldn't understand how these men weren't worshipping the ground I walked on and gushing about how awesome of a girlfriend I was. What more did they want from me?

As you can imagine the treatment I received eventually broke me of my generosity habit. It was like a switch went off in my brain and I resolved that I would never again do anything for anybody unless I truly wanted to and expected nothing in return. My life improved immediately.

After that decision was made I would check myself (and still do) to make sure that any gifts or services I wanted to give were purely for the happiness of the receiver. Any good deeds I do because I genuinely want to. Using this approach I have never once been disappointed because someone didn't do something nice for me. I've never been upset because someone forgot my birthday and I haven't felt resentful from lack of appreciation.

This change of attitude has completely revamped my relationships. It helped to remove people from my life that were not adding to my happiness. Not only that, the people I am now surrounded by show the same love, concern, and appreciation towards me as I do towards them. This balance is what we are all striving towards. Nobody can continue to give and give and give without receiving, otherwise at the end of it all, there's nothing left to give. It's healthy, heartfelt give-AND-take that brings us joy and I feel lucky to have learned this so early.


Rachel said...

I remember when I was in college I used to try to smile at everyone I passed, and sometimes say hello. Some people said "hi" back or smiled or nodded, but other people stared at me like I had grown some sort of extra limb. I hated those people. HATED THEM. I was talking to Seth about this one day and he told me I needed to just GIVE the smiles without wanting anything back-- not even acknowledgment. I totally didn't get that at the time, but as the years have passed I have learned that, like you said, giving with expectation of return will only disappoint. You gotta just give for the sake of giving-- or not give at all. Wisdom!