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One of the buzzwords of the 21st century is “gratitude.”
If we are grateful in every possible situation, we attract more positivity and good things in life. We maintain gratitude journals, express our gratitude on thanksgiving days, and do many other things just because we are grateful to someone, as they did something good for us in the past.
But what do people do and expect when they are on the receiving end of gratitude? Expecting a grateful behavior for a favor we did is a general human trait. But some people expect it way too much, almost making the lives of the people who received the favor miserable.
We often see this kind of behavior from people at the workplace, friends, and even family. They constantly remind us how grateful we should be for the favor they did to us. “I have done everything for you, and look at how ungrateful you are,” is a typical statement we hear from fathers, mothers, brothers, husbands, wives, teachers, and bosses.
Those people want us to acknowledge the favor we received every single day, obeying every single order of theirs. They almost want us to act as servants, creating pressure, subjecting us to guilt, frustration, moral dilemma, confusion, and anger.
Most of us tolerate such toxic behavior in the name of gratitude. This kind of pressure leads to low self-esteem and anxiety and finally leads to meltdowns and numbness.
In the 18th century, a new race emerged in Europe and America as “grateful slavery.” This means Africans who were slaves were grateful to their masters who treated them kindly, which further reinforced white supremacy over other races. But slavery is still slavery. This internalized the attitude that we are lesser than our master in every means, them treating us kindly is a favor, and we should be grateful for the rest of our lives. But this misinforms humans about their basic rights.
It keeps both parties away from the reality of what is humanly right and what is wrong. This kind of gratitude is always dangerous for the mental health of the receiver. We see this use of power and control not only at the national and international levels but also in families.
This is why our traditions teach us an important lesson to forget what good we have done to people but remember what good others have done to us. The power of gratitude always lies in the goodness of the one who receives it but never in the one who expects it.
To summarize, nobody owes anyone anything. Doing good to others when we can is a basic human trait and a responsibility—not a godly act. Hence, if someone did a favor for us, they are not our masters and we are not their slaves. It is a toxic trait and has to be identified before it wrecks us down.
My husband always naughtily sings a Hindi song that says, “Meherbani Nahi, Tumhara Pyaar manga hai,” which translates as, “I didn’t ask for your grace (sympathy), but I asked for love.”
Nobody is doing meherbani by being a good boss, husband, wife, in-law, or friend.
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