Karma (Or Lack Thereof)

I think I’ve always been one to give. I live by the philosophy that if I’m asked to do it, and I can do it, then I should do it. The moments when I choose not to do the thing I’ve been asked to do are the moments I realize I’m a selfish person. This mode of thinking is something built into my system, and can probably only be attributed to Jewish guilt.

One thing I have had a very hard time with in the last few years has been trying to understand why others don’t feel the same way I do. Though I don’t consciously say to myself every time I support a friend’s cause, “I am doing her a favor, so she owes me one,” it seems that I end up thinking that nagging thought just about every time. On a regular basis I’ll find myself thinking “wow, that person is so selfish to not donate. I donated, after all.” And then I proceed to feel guilty over just how self-righteous I can be.

There’s one voice inside my head saying, maybe you don’t need to give anymore, and then you won’t be annoyed with others who don’t give. But then the rational side of me (hopefully the winning side) just says that I need to get over it.

I need to find a way to give without expecting anything in return, without expecting good karma to spread another inch around me every time I give an elderly person my seat on the bus.

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1 comment
  1. First, every time you give anybody a seat on the bus who needs it, you ARE spreading good karma. Performing random acts of kindness is NOT random. Each time, you are making a positive difference in that person’s life, AND increasing the chances that they’ll aspire to do the same with others (maybe even you in a different time and place, unbeknownst to all – this world works, or doesn’t, in truly bizarre ways), AND that others will witness said act and remind themselves to do the same when the opportunity arises. Amalyah: +1; the World + ∞.

    Second, a person’s gotta be selfish. “Selfish” if that means looking after your own needs. You ONLY know your needs best; you ONLY can be certain what you’re meeting, what you’re not, and whether that gap is important. What “selfish” doesn’t hafta mean: that others’ needs are immaterial to you. Just because you attend to your own needs doesn’t mean that others’ needs don’t matter to you. And if meeting your needs may trump meeting another’s – then you gotta do what you gotta do. But if meeting others’ needs actually DOES meet your needs, well how nice is that 🙂 (e.g., I love being snack queen at Little League – all the kids adore me for 5 whole minutes)

    Third, being the giving kind, you will always expect others to give. It’s what you (would) do after all, and you pick the others you stand with in part because you think you share something important. BUT, of course they’re not you, and putting yourself in their shoes is never really possible. You don’t know their tradeoffs, their commitments, their circumstances, their souls. Make the giving easy, and give them the benefit of the doubt. Two out of three times, they’ll give. One out of three, they won’t, they don’t, they can’t. You’ve done good, and there’s always next time.

    And ptui on Jewish guilt. You’ve got etched into your DNA and socialized into your psyche and mechanized into your every movement your responsibility to be ערבים זה לזה. We are shaped, we are enjoined, we are required to be responsible for one another. We ARE our brothers’ keepers. Part of the basis of a civilized society is the responsibility to work for the collective benefit (interstates we can all use), allow people to improve their circumstances (work hard to increase their wealth), and help those along the way who may not have the abilities to work or improve their circumstances. That’s not guilt. That’s human decency.

    Final word: so, yeah, she does owe you one. It just may not come back how or when you expect it.

    [The soapbox is slid back under the sofa.] xo Sweetie

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