You probably know that phrase, “No good deed goes unpunished.” I always thought it was a cynic who made it up. But it’s actually the people with cynical attitudes in this world who make it true. I always marvel at how sad human nature is when we can look at an act of selflessness or kindness and twist it around to suggest that the person “committing” said act is doing it for ulterior motives. And believe me, I am no angel in this regard. That is what got me thinking about this.
The other night, I went out with some friends for dinner. Scott was home with all three kids. I left him with quite a list of things to accomplish before their bed time at 8:00. He had to bathe the boys, the sink was stacked with dishes from dinner and there were at least two huge loads of laundry to be folded. Oh and of course he had to take care of the kids. I would be fibbing if I said I thought he wouldn’t be slightly overwhelmed. Scott is wonderful about not calling me when I am able to get out for an evening. He rarely, if ever, has called me when I am enjoying an evening with my friends because he knows that the occasions are few, even if I have left him with a gauntlet of tasks to be done.
So I got home the other night after a lovely dinner at the Wooden Spoon in Brighton with some of my favorite people on the planet. I was still relaxed and happy even when I saw that the dishes were merely soaking in the sink. The laundry was still not folded and Scott was sipping a rum and coke watching Duck Dynasty on the couch. I think my tipping point was when I asked him if he fed Grace a bottle…
He said, “Yeah. I gave her her a five-ounce bottle of breast milk from the freezer.”
Let me re-phrase that the way I heard it: He gave her a precious bottle of five ounces of liquid-gold that I had pumped one morning after Grace had actually slept through the entire night for the second time since her birth. Five whole ounces, nearly impossible to replace now that she is eating solid food and my milk supply has depleted so significantly, that I am lucky to be able to pump two ounces after a four hour gap in her feedings. He gave away a five-ounce opportunity for me to get more than two-hours out of the house without the kids. That five ounces may have been enough for me to buy an entire afternoon away from home during the Christmas sales without a diaper bag, a stroller, a mountain of snacks and three children.
I went from relaxed to blood pressure spiking through the roof almost instantly. I was so angry that a poetic string of obscenities poured out of my mouth basically questioning, “Why couldn’t you just pick up the [expletive-expletive] phone and ask me how much to give her? Do you even understand what you did? Why can’t you just call? Oh, was it to shut her up so you could throwback a drink and watch ‘Duck Dynasty,?” etc. etc. etc.
Poor Scott. He stared at me, puzzled with his rum and coke fizzing in the sudden silence, the room aglow with the faces of four bearded red-necks, now muted so that I could have my outburst regarding his “incompetence as a father” for simply feeding his daughter too much milk.
I stormed off to get ready for bed, my anger slowly evaporating and leaving behind a sticky film of guilt. The worst part was he didn’t actually do anything wrong. I knew why he hadn’t called. He was trying not to bother me. He figured Grace would sleep through the night if she had more milk and he knew I had been dying for a good night’s sleep. I had been a nasty, wound-too-tight, sassy, and well, just plain bitchy wife.
So then I started to try to rationalize my reaction. Five ounces is so difficult to get now! He has no idea. Breast-feeding is totally on me. No one else understands how it works. That helped me get to sleep that night before I could let him off the hook by apologizing to him.
But in the morning, I felt worse. He was quiet with me and barely speaking to me. And I couldn’t say I blamed him. I had been completely out of line. I said I was sorry but to please call me next time to ask me how much milk to give Grace if I wasn’t home. Still not much of an apology and I knew it.
Then I packed up all three kids later that morning and went to Whole Foods (thirty-five minutes away) and bought lunch for Scott and brought it up to his work and came home and made an even nicer dinner for him. I felt better and I think he did too after that.
Anyway, I am telling you this story because I can think of so many instances where people have demonstrated true acts of kindness and love and have been accused of doing them for selfish reasons or ulterior motives.
Why do we do this? It’s not a bad thing that people want to do kind things for us. Many selfless things done for others aren’t on the recipient’s terms because the person doing them doesn’t want the praise or recognition. But not only do we choose to be ungrateful, we have the audacity to be bitter about the part that wasn’t done the way we wanted it. We even go as far as accusing the benefactor of doing it for a selfish reason as a way to absolve our own selfish ingratitude.
It would be like a family on Extreme Home Makeover getting upset with Ty Pennington and his team for building their house using vinyl siding because they didn’t like vinyl siding and then saying that Ty’s team only built it with vinyl siding because it was a cheaper material to use than bricks. I don’t think this ever actually happened, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard that it had.
I thought this was a timely concept to write about because very often this time of year, we see beautiful examples of love from those who love us and care about us. Granted, it may be an ugly sweater or a bottle of lotion we absolutely hate the fragrance of, but maybe we can try to push our selfishness aside and just recognize the heart that went into the gift and love that part instead.