Although it may seem cynical, I view most people as folks constantly assessing how they can benefit from others. As I have grown older, this view has become more pronounced. The moment most resolve they cannot benefit from you or benefit any longer from you, the moment they disregard you, or devalue what you have done and/or are doing for them. One such ungrateful person told me my contribution was not enough. Keep in mind, I didn’t/don’t owe any contribution to this person; my giving was an act of kindness. To have my contribution devalued, therefore, in a sophomoric assessment of it, angered me. Such an assessment buttresses my position that most don’t think what you do for them is enough.
Recently, I gave a detailed account to an individual about what I did to address the person’s immediate needs. Guess what? Without any semblance of gratitude and acknowledgment, this person proceeded to list many other things they need—never acknowledging what I have already done. Really? Are you kidding me? This selfishness is hurtful—no matter how tough one is. I don’t want to become a cold and isolated person unwilling to do anything for others, but it’s too instances like this that suggest I may need to adopt a form of this “cold and isolated person.”
Critical Self-Reflection Exercise
Take a moment right now and engage in critical self-reflection. Do you primarily associate with most people to gain some benefit from them? For those you benefit from, do you often think about ways to show them how much you appreciate them? Recognize that a “thank you” is vacuous and insufficient at some point.
Learning from “Write-to-Learn” Exercise
As a writing scholar and instructor, I study the concept and practice of “write-to-learn.” “Write-to-learn” centers on how it is often necessary for us to engage in the critical thinking writing affords us to comprehend what we really think about an issue. I like to assign write-to-learn exercises to my students. If I contend these exercises are useful for my student writers, then I must use these exercises, too.
From the critical thinking this exercise supplied, I determined I will give to and invest in a select few who show their genuine gratitude for the serious contributions I have made to their lives. To be frank, it’s just a few people out of the many folks I have given to and invested in substantially. That’s sad, but it’s the unvarnished, unadulterated truth.
I realize I shouldn’t stop contributing to others; I must limit my contributions to those few who demonstrate they truly value what I do for them.
Also, I notice that once some people receive such significant help from me and they no longer need my help, I never hear from them—unless I initiate contact. By no means do I feel they should contact me each day; however, I believe they should contact me periodically—even if it’s nothing but to see how I am doing and to let me know how they are doing. A quick text message, phone call, private/direct message on social media platforms, and/or etc.
Ultimately, you must do what makes you happy and what gives you joy. That’s what I’ve decided to do from this point on: do what makes me happy and what gives me joy.
Dr. Antonio Maurice Daniels
University of Wisconsin-Madison