(Not) helping

March 11, 2013

I had a situation recently in which somebody admittedly made a mistake in a transaction.  They took some steps to rectify the mistake, but I could see that they actually easily could have done more, so that the rectification would occur sooner.

They didn’t.  They won’t.  They do what they do, which apparently includes a process for rectification that is skewed towards their interests.

What struck me, because I’ve encountered this before in much more loaded situations, is my incredulity that a person would not do what they could but would just shrug and say, in effect, “What I feel like doing, without regard for meeting the actual need or legitimate expectation I created, should be enough.  I am okay with letting the other person be not okay, even though I could help.  I can just look on and not help.  Not my problem.”  Because in some cases, the issue is not so much the timing of the rectification, but whether it is adequate to actually rectify the problem.

How do people do that?  I get when there really is nothing, or nothing more, the person could do, I don’t get it when there is something and they choose not to do it.  (I’m talking about when this happens within a preexisting relationship of some sort, not when a potential Samaritan happens by.)  I also get that that’s their prerogative, but I do then see their previous behavior differently after that happens.  I see, for example, a person who is available when they benefit, but not when the roles are reversed.  Maybe they are confused that for me, reciprocity involves meeting actual needs reciprocally, not a tit-for-tat same-kind exchange, that for me a relationship produces a pool of goodwill, not shelves of particular favors to be returned.  If a baby I’m caring for needs a diaper change, that’s what I do, I don’t just smile back at them or feed them a bottle.

Anyway, with the recent, fairly innocuous situation that arose for me, I could finally see my own incredulity that someone would just choose not to do what they could.  I guess it’s my version of not being able to take “no” for an answer in certain situations.  The kicker is when the person then has a negative reaction to my having a negative reaction to their “no.”

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2 Responses to “(Not) helping”


  1. Welcome to humanity. Not all of are built the same way. Despite all having similar genetic makeup, the way our brains get wired together is different. There really are people that don’t care about other people nor their own reputation until you have them in the hot seat on the issue at hand and they will squirm till you are happy and then forget all about you after. Personal integrity, it seems, is not everyone’s cup of tea.

  2. Diana Moses Says:

    I think you’re right about it involving an issue of getting stuck on an assumption that people are “built the same way” — I probably would see it not in terms of intrinsic structure but in terms of whether the person has access to all parts of their structure. But in terms of how it comes out in their behavior, I think it’s the same under both scenarios.


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