Karma, as we generally understand it, does not exist. How many times does it take to learn that it’s not going to happen? We’re tantrum-throwing children, stomping our feet screaming, “BUT?! I did good! Why is this happening to me?!”
It appears the stomach bug is making the rounds in our house. The baby had it on Sunday (all overnight of course), then my daughter on Thursday. Hers was actually overnight as well, but chose to go to the bathroom on her own, record the time, 1:30am & 4:15am, and let us know in the morning (have we raised the perfect kid?) Then my wife on Saturday.
I guess that leaves me….(dun dun duuuun!!)
Friday was a lovely day and she took the kids for a walk on the greenway, patting herself on the back for getting everyone some exercise and fresh air. Then the next day, barely able to sit up without getting dizzy, she jokes that this shouldn’t be happening cause she was trying to be healthy. And I totally get it. Instinctively you anticipate a reward for doing well. I suppose this is how we were raised: punished for poor choices, rewarded for good ones.
A couple weeks ago I had a similar reaction. School’s were still cancelled for snow. I made it into work early, got some stuff done, went to take my Big Brothers Big Sisters “Little” to lunch, ran into a guy I hadn’t seen in a while who was going through a tough situation and I hope I spoke some words of encouragement to him. On my way back, a car appeared to have broken down right in front of me and the guy was trying to push it across traffic into a gas station. I put my flashers on and helped him push it across. (You haven’t truly exercised till you have pushed a car).
This is where I beam with pride in my day’s accomplishments and wait for it to start raining money and candy from the sky.
Any moment now, I’ll get a surprise bonus.
Maybe they’ll call about that contest I entered.
I’ll settle for no traffic on the way home.
Sadly, the rest of the night was pretty standard. Guess it could have been worse, like some kind of anti-Karma!
A couple years ago I had worked overtime a couple nights for a big project and had just wrapped up on a Saturday. I left to go unwind with friends at a restaurant. While taking the exit on a freshly drizzled off-ramp, I lost traction and flipped my truck. Um, dear Karma, you got it backwards. I worked hard and you forgot to reward me.
I do believe in natural consequences. Unfortunately, it seems negative consequences are more common than positive rewards.
Something inside us thinks that the world somehow owes us for doing a good deed. It’s only fair that I should be treated as well as I have done.
The Law of Reciprocity “basically says that when someone does something nice for you, you will have a deep-rooted psychological urge to do something nice in return.” Maybe “Law” is too strong of a word. If it were a Law, I suppose when I helped the guy push his car over I could’ve waited around for a little tip in return. But maybe it inspired him to do something nice later on that day. Maybe.
I typically feel great when someone does something nice for me. But not always. A compliment could make me feel awkward and shy. Someone paying for my meal could leave me feeling cheap or lower on the totem pole. I remember on a chorus trip, our director stopped the bus to ask a guy on the side of the road for directions. He insisted on showing his appreciation with a little cash, the guy tried to refuse and quite frankly appeared insulted by the offer.
So the cosmos doesn’t automatically reward us for positive actions. And people won’t necessarily return our good deed with one of equal or greater value. So why keep fighting the good fight?
You may still get a reward, just in a different form. Contentment. Satisfaction. A clear conscience.
This is how the golden rule got its gold.
Not: Do to others so that they will do the same to you
Not: Do to others as they have done to you
Do to others… whether or not they do, even if they don’t, even if they don’t deserve it, as if what they do doesn’t even matter… Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Whether you are rewarded is not the point. Whether you have been treated well thus far is not the point. Your goal is to be kind, be generous, be loving, regardless. This is true selflessness. It is not about you, it’s about how you are to others.