“Doing nothing for others is the undoing of ourselves.”
– Horace Mann
There were two lists. On one I wrote down everything nice I had ever done for anyone else. Giving out money, helping people move, listening to boring stories, and doing various miscellaneous favors. On the other I wrote down every thing bad I ever did. Making fun of people, starting fights, flooding my kindergarten (I got expelled from school as a boy), and doing other various unpleasant things.
When I finished both lists I came to the conclusion that I’ve been too nice for most of my life.
I used to always go out to eat with this guy who’d never have enough money to cover his end of the bill. He’d make excuses about why he didn’t have a job, or couldn’t save his money. I’d half heartily believe him. Thinking to myself “One day he’ll repay you.” Later he got mad at me over something petty and dented up my truck while I wasn’t around.
While the above story is extreme, it’s not unique. Over the past two decades I’ve done plenty of favors for others, only to to be met with ingratitude. This used to make me mad. Now I don’t really care. To quote the great Dale Carnegie:
“Let’s remember that Jesus healed ten lepers in one day – and only one of them thanked him. Why should we expect more gratitude than Jesus got?”
Rather than completely ending my charitable actions, I’ve reorganized my distribution of niceties. If a dude genuinely needs help with something, I’ll aid him. In fact, I spent yesterday evening I’m helping an acquaintance with web content. I didn’t bother charging. He’s a good guy and I don’t need the money.
If some guy’s going to sit on the couch all day and expect me to do all his work, he’s in for a surprise. Although I’ve managed to distance myself from free loaders and parasites, one or two will occasionally slip past my defenses. Once exposed, they seldom stick around for long.
Lending a helping hand is something I believe everyone should do from time to time. Just make sure the person you’re assisting actually deserves it. There’s no reason to facilitate a mooch.
P.S. My book, Brains & Brawn, is free until Sunday night. If you haven’t already, grab a copy.