By Megha Bajaj
Whatever we do for another, we do for ourselves alone – because it gives us happiness or a sense of purpose
I was the unlucky witness to the unfolding of a ‘family drama’ at my cousin’s place. My aunt told her son, “You are so selfish. For all that I did for you, now that your wife has come, you have forgotten me!” With that she promptly burst into tears. I could see guilt and frustration flit across my cousin’s face as he sat down miserably. It had only been two months since he had been married and the cause of the outburst was this: he had bought late night movie tickets for himself and his wife, and not included his parents in the plans.
Aunty looked so unhappy that I simply chose silence, and left their house. However, that night, I realised something so beautiful and fundamental about relationships. I learnt that 90 per cent of the issues in any relationship cropped from the basic belief that, “I am giving much more to this relationship than you.” Think about it… when the wife says, “He takes me for granted” – isn’t this the underlying belief? When the mother says, “My daughter is always with her friends” – isn’t she indirectly saying the same thing? Just observe the various cribs and complaints that we have in relationships and most of the times, the core issue will be this: I am giving more than I am getting.
How much simpler would life be if we accept this truth: ultimately, whatever each one of us do, we do it for ourselves. I think one of the most unconditional relationships I have ever seen is that between a mother and a child. The mother gives the child all that she has: her time, her energy, her love, even her physical space. She could convince herself that she is doing all this for the child – but ultimately, isn’t it for herself? The kick in the womb, the sleepless nights, the unlimited care, gave birth to the mother within her, and so she did it.
Even the most ‘selfless’ of people who have trodden this earth ultimately did what they did for themselves. Caring for the sick, food for the children – that is what gave Mother Teresa’s life meaning, and so she did it. For the Mahatma, it was freedom of the nation that gave him a sense of purpose and so he rose to the occasion. For the Buddha it was teaching, for Ramana Maharishi it was being, for Christ it was loving, for Rabindra Nath Tagore it was writing… each of these great souls did in their lifetime, what made them happy.
It is an extremely ego satisfying experience to believe we are doing what we are doing for another. However, if I am honest with myself I will admit – even social service is self-service. I teach a few poor kids each evening – and yes, I do it because I know it will help them. This feeling of being able to make a difference to them makes a difference to me. I am the underlying reason for all that I do.
The expectation of a ‘thank you’, takes away from the pure pleasure of being in relationships. What freedom it would be to love intensely and yet to remember even as I love, ultimately I am just doing it for myself. Wow…
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