There’s a difference between people who need help, and people who want to take advantage of you. Unfortunately, the latter usually pretends to be the former. While this article was written during a time of crisis (the Covid-19 pandemic), you should remember this lesson more in times of peace and good fortune.
You see, while checking out my bookshelf, I found a tiny book of Aesop’s Fables (“The Dolphins, the Whales and the Gudgeon”, Penguin Little Black Classics) and a few stories stood out because they relate to what our family has experienced. That is why I decided to share them with you here, so take some time to read the stories below and absorb the lessons.
“The Ploughman and the Frozen Snake”
One winter, a ploughman found a snake stiff with cold. He took pity on it, picked it up and put it under his shirt. When the snake had warmed up again against the man’s chest, it reverted to its nature, struck out and killed its benefactor.
When he realized that he was dying, the man bemoaned: ‘I well deserve it, for taking pity on a wicked wretch.’
This fable shows that perversity of nature does not change under the influence of kindness.
Lesson: Wicked people will still be wicked even if you show them kindness.
In the Philippines, we have a concept called “utang na loob” (debt of gratitude). If someone helps you out, you have to help them later on when they need you. It’s pretty good as it encourages people to help each other out when they face hard times.
Unfortunately, there are people out there who will actually just ABUSE your kindness and be quick to make excuses when anyone asks for THEIR help. There are also those who abuse that concept by granting you tiny favors, but then ask for far too much in return later on.
“The Man Bitten by a Dog”
A man who had been bitten by a dog roamed far and wide, looking for someone to heal his wound. Someone told him all he had to do was wipe the blood from his wound with some bread and throw the bread to the dog which had bitten him. To this, the injured man replied:
‘But if I did that, every dog in the land would bite me.’
Similarly, of you indulge someone’s wickedness, you provoke him to do even more harm.
Lesson: If you let someone abuse you, you tempt them to do it more.
If you’re a decent person, you usually expect others to be the same. Unfortunately, the world isn’t fair and while YOU may be kind, there are lots of people out there who aren’t. Aside from those who try to take advantage of your kindness, there are also those who start to feel entitled to it once you give them anything.
Remember how I said our family really relates to those lessons? If you have a reputation of being a generous and helpful person like my mother, you might experience the same treatment from other people.
One evening you receive some random message from an old acquaintance or family member that you haven’t spoken to in months or years. They’ll usually start with some uninteresting chit chat, and then they quickly reveal why they called. They need some “help”, and they were hoping you could give or “lend” them some cash (but they tend to forget to pay you back). So you help them, they thank you and move on.
Then some time later they’ll ask again, and again, and again, not caring how they’re draining you and your own family of your time and money. Even worse, they’re usually not alone. There are many others like them asking you for “a little extra cash”, and if you add them all up you’ll see that they’re taking a huge chunk off your hard earned wealth.
They’re like termites. While one or two won’t do that much damage, when they multiply they can destroy your entire home. In this case, they’re destroying your future, twenty dollars at a time.
Take it from us and beware of those kinds of people. While there are honest people out there who just had a bit of bad luck and genuinely need help, there are also others looking for someone to bail them out of money problems that they themselves created.
How do you avoid abusers? Here’s another fable with an important lesson.
“The Trodded-on Snake and Zeus”
The snake, heavily trodded on so often by men’s feet, went to Zeus to complain. Zeus said to it: ‘If you had bitten the first one who trod on you, the second one would not have tried to do so.’
This fable shows that those who hold their own against the first people who attack them make themselves formidable to others who do so.
Lesson: Don’t let people abuse you. Defend yourself or else others will join in.
While it’s important to help those in need, we always have to be wary of those who are simply trying to abuse our kindness. Stay away from those who have a reputation for being dishonest, like those who borrow money but keep “forgetting” to pay people back, or people who seem to always have the latest phones and gadgets and nice clothes but are always having money problems (while hinting that you should bail them out).
We should indeed help people (especially if your gut tells you they’re being honest), but if someone starts asking for more and more “help” then you need to be extra careful. There’s a saying, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. We may think we’re helping others, but sometimes we’re only causing them harm by supporting their bad habits.
I hope this lesson stays with you. While we have to care for those in need, we still need to beware of abusers looking for new victims.