But why do you seek acknowledgement and appreciation for a thing as ennobling as love? Are you not happy with just being in love? Do you not get anything from within yourself out of helping those who need it? What can others give you that you can not give yourself? ? Is your love a trade off for acknowledgement and appreciation? Then, why not make it a trade off for riches and fortune and cars and bungalows?
The moment you seek acknowledgement or appreciation or reciprocation, you are reducing the saintliness in you to a policy.
(Typos may please be excused)
Hazel's son had been sulking for weeks, feeling betrayed by the people he thought he had trusted and invested emotionally in. His heart was full of bitterness over the perversity of things and of a universe that had always turned against him, a universe in which love never begot love. "No matter how far you go to help others by sacrificing your happiness, there will be no appreciation, much less gratitude for this. I am not bitter, and I will still do what I have been doing all my life – loving and giving of me to others, but how disappointing to find that it is always one-sided! Your love and your sacrifices are never even acknowledged, forget about their being reciprocated. Why, mother, why? Why is it always me whom such things happen to?"
In fact he didn't wait for the reply , and answered his question in his mind, "This is because it is dangerous to be too good. This happens to me because I am always trying to be good." He hadn't noticed that his thoughts had been stolen by his lips and without his noticing it, he had actually mumbled all this. His mother had heard it all because she was sitting close to him with all her being focused on listening to and understanding her son.
Finally, he almost threw his arms up in desperation.
Hazel observed her son with concern and compassion. But he could notice that there was a hint of a smile on her lips, a smile that reminded him of a saint he had met during his childhood. The saint had been stoned by the villagers on the charge that he misled the girls of the village. Especially a girl called Meera who had walked out on her parents because, as she said, "she loved them." Everyone in the village had blamed it on the saint and he had eventually been stoned to death. But no one had seen a tear in his eyes or a complaint on his lips. He had blessed the village as he breathed his last.
"Why am I thinking of him now? Why does my mother always remind me of him? She has harmed no one and no one has ever uttered a word against her. Why these thoughts of that saint whenever I see a smile on mamma's lips?"
But these thoughts vanished as soon as they came because his heart was pre-occupied with more pressing things – and he was feeling suffocated and unbearably bitter, even though he said he wasn't.
Hazel looked at him again, and the smile was replaced by a quiet sobriety of voice.
And she said:
"No, my dearest, it is not always and only you to whom these things happen. These happen to most of us, and each one of us believes that these happen only to him or her. Nature has no agenda against you or anyone. What happens to you has to do with who you are and what you do. You set your own moral and spiritual agenda of happiness or otherwise, and you reap its results."
As usual, he had been pulled out of a territory he had enclosed himself in. Soon, his soul was back in his mother's lap and he was listening. But the questions that had been troubling him still remained to haunt him. He closed his eyes, and with some peace in his voice, uttered:
"There is no acknowledgement, much less appreciation of love or what one does for others!"
"But why do you seek acknowledgement , why do you want appreciation for a thing as ennobling as love? " said Hazel. "Are you not happy when you are in love? Do you not get anything out of helping those who need it? What can others give you that you can not get from within yourself? Is your love a trade off for acknowledgement and appreciation? Then, why not make it a trade off for riches and fortune and cars and bungalows? What is the difference? If you are demanding – or even simply expecting – something in return for your love and compassion, what is it in there for you to feel so grand about? You give with hope for being rewarded. Then, how is your love different from the market? But if you want acknowledgement or appreciation or reward or reciprocation, then why not declare at the very outset. Why not tell yourself that you will give this and and will take that in return. And why keep others in the dark about your love? Why not tell them in the beginning that you are not here for love but for a deal. Do you look at your love or whatever you do for others as a deal?"
Once again, he had been led into a territory where he was not familiar with the rules. His mother always changed the terms of negotiation and he was aware that she was slowly leading him into a twilight where he had been before but had always chosen to return to the velvety comforts of the dark.
She took his hand in hers, and slowly caressed its back with her palm. She continued as he closed his eyes as he often would when his mother sang a lullaby.
"No, son, it is never dangerous to be good, if you are not treating goodness as your bargaining lever. It is always a blessing to be able to be good, and to be ready to pay the price for it. Love and goodness are not luxuries you indulge in; but neither are they a burden like you seem to believe. You are good and you love because these are the only things that give lasting happiness. "
"There are many who believe that honesty is the best policy. Is honesty a policy? As a policy, it will always boom-rang. Honesty is the purest state of being, the noblest state of mind. And like love, it is sovereign and seeks no response. Honesty as a policy is the worst policy. Fortunately, saints are not saints as a part of any policy. They are saints because being saints gives them happiness that nothing else can bring. Honest people are saints who are happy for being honest. It is a feeling, not a policy. So with other good things. But the moment you seek acknowledgement or appreciation or reciprocation, you are reducing the saintliness in you to a policy. And that will always bring disappointment, unhappiness, misery, bitterness. Beware."
Her voice seemed to swim smoothly, effortlessly over ragged seas.
"You must examine and own any feeling that exists in your heart. You said you are not bitter? Aren't you. People who are not bitter are always happy. Are you? People who love never complain. Don't you? "
She paused and took his head briefly close to her bosom and then let him rest it on her folded legs.
" If there is hatred and bitterness in your heart, look at them closely. Get behind the sources of their fountains. Once you have searched your heart and soul with some honesty, you will find that hatred and bitterness are essentially your harvest, and have got nothing to do with the objects you hate or are angry with. "
There was a pause as a gentle breeze brushed his cheeks and he felt a cool hand soothe his anguished mind. As she spoke:
"And bitterness is worse than alcoholism; it is an addiction that does not even create a false euphoria and kills you just as quickly as alcoholism does. Worse, while alcoholism afflicts your body and mind, bitterness is a termite to the soul. Even worse, you get addicted to being eaten away bit by bit every day. The day your soul is not chipped away with persistent bites, you feel something is missing or perhaps that you are losing the ability to feel intensely. Of all the addictions, hatred is the worst and the most misleading, making you believe that only you have the sole proprietary rights to virtue and that you are surrounded by an evil universe. There is nothing more harmful to a man's soul than arrogant righteousness. It destroys you by pleasing you. And it also breeds hatred for those you consider less righteous, like those who do not reciprocate your love or goodness. Hatred stands between you and your sainthood and between your sainthood and your happiness. It is the surest means to unhappiness. And it is the most killing addicition; it is an addiction that soon turns into an obsession."
" Whenever you find yourself burdened with these addictions, take these out of your heart, place them in front of you and look closely. You will find some snakes of pettiness and insecurity swarming in there. Snakes swarm your soul. They bite the ehart they inhabit. And they names like bitterness and poison. The poison in your soul, as in your body, is fatal only for you. Others will not be affected by it till they also are bitten by the same snakes. Frighten these snakes away. "