Keeping Score

A friend of mine apologized recently. She said, “A couple of months ago, you told me you loved me, and I didn’t respond in kind. I’ve felt guilty ever since. I’m just not good at being open like that.”

Now I feel guilty, because I hadn’t even noticed that she hadn’t responded in kind. And here she had been agonizing over it.

To be perfectly frank, I don’t tend to keep score like that. I can’t be bothered. That, and my memory gets shorter by the day.

I know so many people who think that way. “I don’t come in early to relieve my coworker because he never does it for me.” “I don’t text/tweet/call/write/comment as often as I once did because the person in question doesn’t.” “I don’t send birthday cards to x, y, or z because they never send any to me.”

Living that way must be exhausting. It must be hard to keep track of what level of resentment vs. generosity you are going to display from one person to the next. I’d be reduced to gazing at a list of bitterness. That doesn’t sound like much fun.

It’s much more pleasant, and ultimately more rewarding, to bestow your gifts on the world with an open heart and an open mind, expecting nothing in return. That way you don’t get disappointed. It also means that your actions are more pure.

But I have to admit that this is not always an easy habit to maintain. For example, if I tell a significant other that I love him for the first time and I’m met with silence, that makes me nervous. And I’m no saint. If someone consistently treats me badly, I have a hard time approaching that person with an air of sincere generosity. I’m a work in progress. But at least I’m trying.

The bottom line is that you can only control what you put out in the world. You have no control over what you get back. So don’t let the sentiments that come toward you be your sole reason for changing your attitude toward someone.

Don’t be a doormat, of course, but at the same time, allow yourself to feel what you feel and do what you do without obsessing over the score. Life’s too short.

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