The Golden Rule

"Why do you do favors for people" he asked. "What's your motivation? Do you want people to feel a sense of debt? Are you trying to be some kind of martyr?"

Silence followed as I found myself at a complete loss for words. I understood the questions and why he was asking them, but the answers seemed as obvious as explaining why I exhale after I inhale, or why I step with my right foot after I take a step with my left. That's how it works.

Do I want a good friend?
I need to be a good friend.
Breathe in, breathe out. That's how it works.

Do I want to be able to rely on my friends?
My friends need to be able to rely on me.
Breathe in, breathe out. That's how it works.

No, I don't want friends to feel a sense of debt. Nor do I don't want to be a martyr. I want to be a good friend.

I believe in the golden rule.
I believe in treating others as I would have them treat me.

The problem with using the golden rule as a personal value system is the implied role of 'others'. I can only control how I treat others. I can't control how others treat me. When others take my good deeds for granted, I get taken for granted. I get used. And it sucks.

I've gotten myself into a cycle that consists of doing favors for people who, even if unintentionally, take advantage of my generosity.

I realize that only I can break this cycle, but, in the future, how do I decide who is worthy of a favor?

Here's the answer, and it will be the same answer every time: I am worthy of the favors I do for others. That's right. *I* am worthy. That is not a statement of vanity. Instead, it is a recognition of the very essence of the golden rule: I do unto my friends as I would have them do unto me. I would have my friends do favors for me because I will do favors for them. Without question. Without guilt. It's what a good friend does.

I believe in treating others the way I would like to be treated, so how can I say no to a friend who asks a favor? Doing so would make me a hypocrite because I wouldn't be living by my own value system. I can't control whether or not someone appreciates the effort I put into being a friend, but when a friendship devolves into a one sided stream of favor after favor... if the number of times I spend with a friend becomes a near reflection of the number of favors I've done for that friend... Clearly, the friendship is lost.

It's a cycle and I'm at the center of it. What should I do differently next time?

Should I betray my own values and turn down a friend who asks one too many favors without doing enough in return? Should I slowly walk away from the friendship if I see the pattern begin? Or should I allow myself to be taken for granted, possibly even used, until the friendship reaches a breaking point and crashes?

I have more questions than answers, but my days of being the cat sitter, again, have come to a close again. Only time will tell if I make a similar mistake again. The truth is, I probably will, in one way or another... because if I consider someone to be a friend and that friend asks a favor... what kind of friend would I be if I said no? And if the friend asks another favor...

Hopefully, in the future I can at least learn to navigate these situations without being rude. In this latest instance, I was a damn good friend, but in the end, I let the frustrations of feeling taken advantage of cloud my judgement and I was rude. I'd known for months I should have made a silent exit, so how did me being rude improve the situation at all? It didn't. That is where I let myself down.

And so it goes.

::::: | Thursday, Mar 11 2010 at 3:58 PM
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Jacob J said:

What you have to do is figure out when a friendship isn't close enough to 50/50 and cut them loose because they'll use you if you dont. People take advantage because most are thoughtless and selfish. I've had ppl treat me like that too. I hope whoever this post is about doesn't read it tho.

::::: | March 11, 2010 9:40 PM

overthehill said:

This hits a little too close to home because I've recently gone through something similar, but here's what I've learned. It's sad when a friendship ends but it's for the best if the friendship wasn't equal in terms of give and take.

I know this isnt what you want to hear but, better luck next time. Stick with the golden rule. It's a good way to be.

::::: | March 12, 2010 12:42 AM

You know who this is said:

+1 for overthehill. Stick with the golden rule. I haven't read jalpuna in a while but I think I know what this post is really about and I'm not even gonna say I told you so :)

Rob, your problem is you give people too much credit and then you're surprised when they disappoint you. If the average person sees a $50 on the ground they'll pick it up and hope nobody sees. I bet you'd try to find out who dropped it so you could give it back.

I like that you're a good guy. I wish more people thought like you.


::::: | March 15, 2010 5:13 AM

brando said:

I know exactly what you're talking about. Years ago I made a mistake when I snapped at a friend who always asked for favors. I said "I don't owe you anything" meaning that I didn't HAVE to answer to his requests. Well, I learned that's one way to ruin a friendship. I was only 19 at the time, but I learned that it's okay to say no to a friend. I true friend will understand your limits and will still be glad to be your buddy even when you aren't able to accommodate their needs.

::::: | April 22, 2010 10:19 AM

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