You Owe Me! But Do I Really?

I recently witnessed an interpersonal relationship dynamic that can be found underlying many destructive worldviews, and it was quite fascinating and disturbing all at the same time. In this relationship pattern, people do “good deeds” with the expectation of getting very specific needs met in return, which means they were attempting to secure love in the same way a person might secure sex from a prostitute, without the person they wanted things in return from realizing a transaction was actually taking place, or that they were the prostitute who owed something in return for the other person’s supposedly voluntary good deeds—that is if they even do a good deed at all, sometimes they expect things in return just for being in the relationship. Some people’s “good deeds” are back loaded with all kinds of expectations of getting things in return, without actually securing an agreement and consent beforehand, it’s like they believe that the fact that they’re together with their partner guarantees them a lifetime supply of goodies from them from that point forward, especially consent for every demand, reasonable or unreasonable, that they might make. Their mindset is, “since you initially consented to be with me, you obviously consent to everything that I need and demand from here on out.”

While it is true that it is a good idea to exchange value for value in relationships, and that such value should be balanced, it’s not about deeds nearly as much as exchanging character traits for character traits, which I will classify as REAL value. Of course if actions are not backing up one’s thoughts, feelings, and statements, they are out of integrity with themselves, so good deeds should and will follow good character, but good deeds in themselves are meaningless without the right motivation for them. Rather, it is my reasoned opinion that it is good to give to others from our own deep seeded appreciation and gratitude for their value as a person, and how their value affects us and our daily life.

For example, let’s examine two opposing motivations for performing good deeds for others (there are more, but for the purpose of this article, we’re only looking at these two): 1) “I did these good deeds for you, and now you owe me”, or 2) “I love you so much, and I’m so grateful for your presence in my life, that from the depths of my heart I did these good deeds for you today, without any expectation of receiving anything in return.” In the first instance, there is a feeling of being owed something in return for one’s good deeds, so the motivation to do good is to get something in return, therefore it is a transactional mindset that sees the other person as an object rather than a subject. In the latter statement, we see that all of the good deeds are motivated by a deep appreciation for the value they have already received from the subject, and nothing is expected in return, so they are seeing the other as a subject and not an object. In both cases value is being exchanged for value, but in the first value is expected in return for good deeds, while in the latter good deeds are given in return for their value. From my own personal experience, as well as my observations of others, I think that it is far better to give value from love and appreciation for the value that others bring into my life, rather than giving value with the expectation that others reciprocate that value in a way that I think THEY SHOULD give it to me, which is a far too heavy burden for most people to bear.

Jesus warned about doing things to gain external acceptance from others when he spoke about the spirit in which we would best be served when we perform our “good deeds”, he basically said that it is better to do them without fanfare or expectation from those around us:

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” ~Matthew 6:2-4

In healthy relationships, externalized expectations aren’t placed on our partners, friends, or children, we’re not in the relationship to “get things” from each other, especially things that we really should be giving to ourselves from the inside-out, rather, we are together to share our value that we’ve already cultivated within ourselves, which will produce more value—sometimes exponentially. In relationships where people externalize their expectations onto others, the purpose of the relationship is service of the self, and self’s often irrational needs which are typically motivated by unresolved traumas and shadows, and sadly, things aren’t any better if it is balanced between two self-absorbed people where the purpose is two empty vessels who “promise to scratch your back if you promise to scratch mine”.

Instead, it is far better when relationships have and serve a higher purpose that is beyond the self and its egocentric gratification, one such example being the raising of children into healthy and well adjusted individuals, and helping them to become self-responsible members of their community and society. There are purposes beyond raising children and furthering one’s genealogical bloodline though, such as serving a joint life purpose and other transcendent spiritual goals, but this takes two integrated and whole individuals who have already cultivated their internal value, who then come together to work as partners and companions, not two fragmented and needy children seeking to re-experience those who remind them of mommy or daddy, and hoping to finally be treated right.

Nobody owes needy and entitled individuals, nor their inner children, anything, rather needy and entitled people need to work with their own inner child to give them the security, love, and emotional support they didn’t receive in childhood. This takes a deep commitment to reflection and taking responsibility for one’s own well being, including taking responsibility for their own internal thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and outcomes, and anything short of this is just projecting the contents of their unresolved traumas and shadows onto others, and making external people and the world responsible for what they didn’t receive as children. Instead, it is far better to fully give security, love, and emotional support to ourselves (inner children) first, and from the abundance of what we receive from ourselves, let it overflow and spill out onto those around us; if each person did this, the world would be a much better place.

Here’s some boundaries and affirmations (Boundary Magic) to help you take more responsibility for yourself, and to avoid taking responsibility for others.


  1. I’m more than happy to have relationships with people when they take responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and outcomes.
  2. I’m more than happy to have relationships with people when they are reflective and capable of working through their childhood baggage.
  3. I’m more than happy to experience anger, sadness, or fear with people when I am willing to take responsibility for my feelings and work through them in a reflective and responsible manner.
  4. I’m more than happy to do good deeds for others when I feel grateful and appreciative for how their value affects my life.
  5. I’m more than happy to receive good deeds from people when their good deeds are given to me freely from their heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for me.


  1. I can take more responsibility for my own thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and outcomes.
  2. I can connect with people who take responsibility for their own thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and outcomes.
  3. I can be more reflective and capable of working through my childhood baggage.
  4. I can connect with people who are reflective and capable of working through their childhood baggage.
  5. I can take responsibility for my anger, sadness and fear and work through my emotions in a reflective and responsible manner.
  6. I can connect with my inner child more and more every day, and from the abundance of security, love, and emotional support that I give to my inner child, it can overflow and spill onto those around me.
  7. I can do good deeds for people from heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for their presence in my life.
  8. I can receive good deeds from people who are motivated from their heartfelt gratitude and appreciation for me.

THE UNITY PROCESS: I’ve created an integrative methodology called the Unity Process, which combines the philosophy of Natural Law, the Trivium Method, Socratic Questioning, Jungian shadow work, and Meridian Tapping—into an easy to use system that allows people to process their emotional upsets, work through trauma, correct poor thinking, discover meaning, set healthy boundaries, refine their viewpoints, and to achieve a positive focus. You can give it a try by contacting me for a private session.

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