Imposing Obligations on Others is Toxic Personally and in Business.

So this is not usually a place for news and current affairs, but the discussions the last few weeks in the media around Tony Abbott’s negotiations with Indonesia requesting clemency for two members of the “Bali 9” has piqued my interest.  The reason?  The idea of “obligation”.

“[The comments made by Tony Abbott to the Indonesian President] says our aid is conditional, that it imposes obligations and that if we feel those obligations haven’t been met, we might just withhold it in future.  That’s a hell of thing to imply, even in private.”  Waleed Aly.

Obligation is both a privilege and a curse.

Being able to repay a debt is a gift.  Feeling like you are owed something is absolutely toxic. 

It absolutely says something about you if you only ever do something for others, if you only ever go out of your way for others, if you expect to be repaid in kind (or greater).   If you only ever do something because you expect something in return, what does that say about you?

Surely the joy and happiness comes from when we give freely of ourselves, of our knowledge, of our time, of our expertise, of our skills.  Surely our soul sings when we are able to contribute and help others in our own unique way without expecting the favour to be returned.

If it is, then that’s a lovely surprise and it’s time to pay it forward.

If you are one to keep track of what you feel is owed to you- by friends, family, colleagues, your children- perhaps consider what it is doing to you.  Not all our debts will be repaid.  Some will be repaid in a way that seems “less” valuable to you than your gift.  Some will be forgotten.  Some will be gratefully received by the other person as a gift.

Your feeling of being owed something in return is incredibly toxic.  It can ruin friendships, destroy partnerships, undermine longstanding relationships, create resentment.

This is one of the reasons that contra deals rarely work.  One party always feels as if they were short changed, as if the other party “owes” them more than they gave.

Try this- give.  Give, expecting nothing in return.

With your customers, give more than they expect.

With your friends, give surprises, love, unconditional support with no provisos,  no debt, no contracts.

With your family, give with abandon, never expecting anything in return.

We grow into better people by our willingness to give, and our lack of expecting anything in return.

If you feel that you can never offer anything, without seeking something in return, (such as what Mr Abbott was implying, in rather a disgraceful and shameful way) then perhaps it’s your turn to offer a gift.


(edited to add: I absolutely 100% do not support the death penalty- in Indonesia, the USA, anywhere. Ever.  This blog is not a discussion on the rights or wrongs of any justice system, but written to encourage you to think about how you hold others to supposed obligations, and the effect on your outlook on life because of it.)

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Written by Anita Marchesani
I've come to small business the long way round- but enjoyed and learned from every single step. I learned about the power of Media during a BA and while working in Film&TV. I learned about the hard graft while groom for an international eventer in the UK. I learned organisation and staff management from running hundreds of weddings both here and in the UK. I learned from the mistakes of my first business that failed, to create an e-commerce success story, and now I'm here to help you have even greater success in your business. Oh, and I dance to really loud music like a crazy bastard.