How To Be Free By Forgiving Othersby Chris Fritz
Last week, we talked about how you don’t owe anyone a damn thing. No one else can walk your path for you, so you shouldn’t give a fuck about other people’s expectations.
However, I ended the piece by raising the stakes: the only way to release yourself from other people’s expectations is to release them from yours. That means nobody owes you a damn thing.
But what does THAT mean?
Despite our best efforts to live honestly and altruistically, the truth is that we often choose to “invest” rather than give in our relationships. I call this making a social transaction.
We send cards and make phone calls around the holidays because we want people to believe we’re thinking of them — but really, we’re craving their acceptance
We sacrifice the things we want in favor of things our partners want — but we expect them to eventually do the same
We pick up slack for others at work — even for shitty bosses — but we expect to eventually get a promotion out of it
We volunteer our time and energy to support other people’s projects and dreams — but we expect them to do the same for us down the line
Don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that every act of kindness is purely transactional. However, when we truly examine our actions, we might find that we aren’t quite as generous as we thought we were and that our kindness is just a subtle form of manipulation.
The most sinister part of social transactions is that we give our time, attention, resources, and energy to others under the guise of charity when it’s really a loan, and we’re fully intending to collect on our investment in the future — with interest. As a result, we create something I call social debt.
Social debt manifests in the form of expectations: both our own and those of others. We incur social debt when we accept kindness from others without reading the “fine print”. Likewise, we burden others with social debt when we extend a helping hand while our other hand grips the steel knife of expectations.
Quote(s) of the Week
“Those who are good, I am good to them
Those who are not good, I am also good to them
Thus the virtue of goodness” — Lao Tzu
So why does social debt matter?
Social debt is an anchor, often more so to the person who is “owed” than the person who “owes”.
For example, we often hold grudges against people who are literally dead just because we feel like they owe us something. They’re dead as fuck — they will never, ever be able to make things “right”. Yet we choose to hold on to that anger anyway.
However, even if our debtors aren’t dead yet, they often either can’t or won’t repay their social debt to us, no matter how much we hound them, curse them, insult them, or hate them. As a result, bitterness takes root in the cracks of our virtue, and it weakens our ability to love ourselves and others to the fullness of our abilities.
The bitterness rots our souls, spoiling our power to be grateful for the little things we take for granted: clean water, soft beds, nutritious food, physical safety, and the fact that we have access to infinite knowledge through the internet that’s accessible through devices we can hold in one hand.
You can’t count your blessings if you’re too busy tallying other people’s debts.
Question of the Week
Think of some of the debts that people “owe” you based on things that happened in the past — money, recognition, attention, apologies, etc. How much could you grow if you let those debts go — along with the memories associated with them?
Live On Purpose // Die Without Regrets
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