Estremera: Winning hearts, humble brags, and the Pinoy psyche

Spider’s web

A YOUNG chief executive cracked me up after she gave me a glimpse of how shrewd but full of heart her strategy is in doing business.

“He already poured his heart out to me about personal issues, now he is under our command.” It sounded triter in Tagalog: Nagbuhos na ng sama ng loob sa akin, pwede na nating mautus-utosan.”

I’ve been doing a version of that: Helping someone out in times of dire need, whether emotional, professional or spiritual (sometimes financial, but this one’s iffy) and have since been enjoying the fruits of the person’s gratitude.

I even advise my mentees to sow as many debts of gratitude to as many people as possible because that is the kind of debt that can never be fully paid. It lingers on in the psyche of the person whom you threw a lifeline to and many will feel compelled to repay this over and over again. I learned that from my mom who said decades ago: The most difficult debt to pay is debt of gratitude, avoid incurring it. I turned the table around instead.

That sounds manipulative, even Machiavellian to some. But it’s just stating what has been written but which we find little compulsion to do as told.

The Bible says that we must forgive in order to be forgiven. Then there’s the reminder that whoever sows sparingly will reap the same. It is in giving that we receive and it is in forgiving that we are forgiven. But we tend not to listen when it’s said that way. Some folks even made it less trite by coming up with the adage, “It’s better to give than to receive.”

But no, it was said that “whoever sows generously will also reap generously”. It’s just the human in us who shirks at any hint to the public that we have the eye on the prize, when it’s a fact that every one of us has an eye on the prize. Just watch a raffle and see the glint of hope in every person’s eyes while holding their tickets. Some even pay indulgences for that reserved place in heaven.

Why not reap as we want to sow, instead?

That advice comes with an aside: never ever collect debts of gratitude. Let it lie there, even forget it. It will come back, many, many times especially when you most need them. That is how the universe works.

In some religions and belief systems it’s called karma. Interestingly, in Bisaya, we have the words “grasya” and “gaba”. But “grasya” which means bounty, premium, payment or reward, is often used to refer to something we chance on or given by somebody, but not often as a reward for good karma planted. “Gaba”, however, refers directly to bad karma. That is indeed interesting. The nuances of a language gives an insight into the psyche of a people. We Pinoys are more inclined towards humble bragging and self-derision than just accepting with grace what we have rightfully earned.

Meanwhile, I sow as I want to reap.



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