“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets”. Matthew 7:12
It comes a time when we need help and those we previously helped are the first persons we run to. Unlike expected, reciprocity is not guaranteed. What kind of attitude should we embrace then?
Should we bear grudge?
Rumour spread in my native town that the wife of my math teacher from high-school had been fighting with a rare type of stomach cancer for years.
He is one of the few teachers who instilled the passion for knowledge in me. As a token of appreciation, I decided to pay a visit and see for myself how they cope.
His wife was in the hospital, fighting for her life. He was in the garden in front of their house, making phone calls to raise some money for her medication.
He’d sold all his possessions. He had nothing more to sell. His last resort solution was to borrow money from relatives and friends.
Much to his surprise, individuals whom he had helped under different circumstances, conjured up excuses for not being able to lend money.
The genius mind teacher that I knew had been replaced by a wounded beast with hatred in his heart.
“My heart got sick the day when a former student who is now quite a well-off man declined any help.”, he said. “For three years, I had taught him private classes for free.”
“Life is treacherous. People are treacherous.”
These are the words of a 70 years old Romanian singer who was asked to describe some of her core beliefs in an interview.
My first reaction was to pity her for having such a gloomy outlook on people. Contemplating more on it, I concluded that she adopted a rather cautious attitude.
Indeed, human beings can be cruel, violent, savages, liars, contemptuous, gossipy, mean, etc. Bearing these negative characteristics in mind, we are less vulnerable to others’ behaviour.
At the same time, human beings can be empathic, highly moral, compassionate, kind, and loving. Such individuals can be firm adepts of the Golden Rule, which states that we should treat others the way we would want them to treat us.
In my view, humanity is in a constant fight against the bad with the good in us and outside us. As Albert Einstein said, “The world is not dangerous because of those who do harm but because of those who look at it without doing anything”.
The question is how can the good Samaritans maintain the goodness inside when others won’t lift a finger in their times of need?
After all, any kind person can feel embittered, angry, disillusioned and betrayed when being mistreated by peers!
Staying aware throughout the emotional meltdown
When being hurt, it is darn difficult to remember not to take others’ treatment to heart. Most of the times, others’ behaviour reflects sides of who they are.
- They may have their own problems, maybe not be as urgent or crucial as ours, but nevertheless prioritised.
- They may have a partner who is in charge with the family finances.
- They may be modern embodiments of Dickens’s Scrooge, too greedy to lend a penny.
The bewilderment of the refusal may cloud the awareness of the unconscious expectation, which we place on others the moment we help them. Some of us take it as a moral obligation to return the help subsequently.
Yet, not every person has high morals. So, when we treat others the way we would like to be treated, we need to be aware that we choose to do that. Because we believe in that.
Spreading goodness is a value in life. Like any other value, it is not absolute. If others choose to live by other values, we need to learn to let them be.
Alignment of life circumstances
When the help is not reciprocated, we can safeguard our wellbeing by thinking, “Well, he can’t help me now. But maybe someone else will.”
Maybe there is a timing of the Universe regarding what people can be helpful, where and when. There is a stroke of fate when we cross our way with others whose life circumstances are in alignment with ours.
Preferably sooner than later, we will find our way out of the tornado of negative emotions and marvel at the mysterious dynamism of life based on the Law and the Prophets.
If you experienced similar situations, how did you react towards the persons who didn’t treat you as good as you had treated them before?