For Goodness Sake

Someone once told me that you should be happy doing nice things for people, for its own sake. You should never do something nice with the expectation of getting something good in return. In other words, if you save someone’s life by pushing them out of the way of a truck, don’t expect them to say, “Thank you.”  This sounds really good in theory.

In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice.
In practice, there is a difference.

In practice, I think its more complicated. There are some people for whom  “do good for goodness sake” is true. (I am a little skeptical actually) For others and myself, I feel badly when you give and don’t get gratitude in return. Everyone has experienced a situation where you do something nice and then the other person doesn’t say thank you. For the most part, I don’t think people want karma in equal value, but I think its commonly expected for the receiver to be somewhat grateful. One expects a degree of “credit” for the good thing done.

So what happens when someone doesn’t feel appreciated for their positive contribution? Do they continue to do good for that person? What about doing good in general?  Does the absence of a “thank you” make someone less likely to give the next time? I wish I had access to statistics from charities. Do thank you notes have an effect on repeat contributions?

What about children? I know from experience that giving them things I wished for as a kid has no bearing on their appreciation of the gifts. They become accustomed to the level of things given. Is this something that sticks with us as adults?

No one is perfect, no one is a saint. In fact, we are all pretty flawed in our own unique ways. We all give and we all get in varying degrees. I try to help people whenever I can. However, I am self-aware enough to know that I am not doing it just for goodness sake. Very few people can look in the mirror and say “bad person”, yet we have plenty of bad behavior out there.

Being honest with myself is part of my world view, my philosophy. It actually would be better for me if I just looked the other way. Ignorance is bliss, right? But I can’t. I am a bad person. I do good things for people and I expect gratitude in return. I want credit for good karma. I shouldn’t, but I do. A “nice” person would do good without any strings attached. When I don’t get gratitude, I act poorly and burn the bridge with that person. Bad behavior, but at least I am honest.

Let he who is without sin, cast the first stone and call me a jerk.

Whatya think?