I used to
think of the two terms indebtedness and gratitude as interchangeable. I
would feel indebted to those who would help me and at the same time feel grateful
for them. But only rather recently have I noted and noticed subtle but vital
differences not only between the two terms and definitions but more importantly
concerning the feeling and the psychological dimensions associated with and
connected to each of them.
awareness was brought about after the wonderful opportunity to speak with Kristen Ragusin about her revolutionary concept and conception of money and the
importance (and various benefits) of moving and shifting from a scarcity mindset
to one of abundance. As a result, I came to reevaluate not only how money is
used and portrayed in our world but also how we use it figurately in our way of
thinking, interpreting, and understanding the world.
points out on my podcast, we need to change how we see and define money and if we are stuck
in a mindset that accentuates scarcity, meaning we never have enough money for
our needs and desires, then we are trapped in an endless loop. This would
create a scarce and pessimistic outlook regardless of how much money we end up
having or making. This is also demonstrated by the usual restlessness that
accompanies many ultrarich people who are so set on making and amassing money
that life passes them by unnoticed and unused.
They may be
financially rich, but they would often lack in wealth; the former representing
how much money they have in their respective bank accounts while the second
underlining how much overall wealth they have accumulated, which would include various
other qualities and characteristics that are closely tied with happiness,
fulfillment, and life satisfaction.
spotlight is now on the first term, that of being in debt with someone or
something. When it comes to our educational background, we would often
literally be in debt due to student loans (I have had my fair share and managed
to pay them off after various years). As to my graduation, I am certainly
grateful for my professors, some of whom were excellent and some of whom were
not, but essentially, it was my own hard work and discipline that led to my
degree. In other words, I am certainly grateful and feel privileged to have had
the opportunity and at such a wonderful university to boot but I do not and
ought not to feel indebted to them.
about the accumulated debt that we tend to have towards our family, in
particular, our parents who brought us into the world and (hopefully) supported
us along the path of life? In certain terms and manners, they may have ended up
paving the way for us to get where we are now. What and how much do we owe them
for all of this?
depends on who you end up asking, and there is a definite cultural component,
relation, and variable there. For instance, my home culture very much values
the contribution of parents, and they are put on a pedestal much more so than
simply honoring them as is said or rather commanded in the Bible. Various Asian
cultures follow suit in which sons and daughters are expected to subjugate
their own wills (and often dreams and aspirations) to those of the family; this
is often referred to and acknowledged as a collective society or mindset. It is
also prevalent in many Latin cultures often driven by Catholic beliefs but it
is not as pronounced in places that have predominantly Protestant roots, which typically
tend to value work and material wealth over everything else.
unconscious mindset has significant repercussions on decision-making,
lifestyle, and control. The will of the self or ego often needs to yield and give
way to those of one’s environment or family. At its best, it ensures harmony
and balance; at its worst, it can squash or severely limit and hinder personal
freedom and liberties. And it is so effective not merely because we feel gratitude towards our parents and by extension our country and nation but
rather that we feel in debt and lacking. And debts need to be repaid one way or
another, with money or actions.
a moral issue as we assume that, like loans, we need to pay them back the
material and emotional tolls and costs that our parents have endured for simply
having us alongside everything else that they may have endured because of us.
But in this case, we get it wrong and the wrong way around: the moral
responsibility does not lie with the children but with the parents who decided
to have the child in the first place.
accepting this and making this decision, parents and caregivers are personally
responsible for the maintenance, upbringing, and well-being of the child at
least until the age of maturity. We tend to understand this concept much better
when it comes to our pets than our children and willingly and gladly take care
of animals for the duration of their life span. Yet somehow, parents come to
believe or assume that the children are indeed theirs, if not their property, that they belong to them, and that the children need or ought to pay off
their dues one way or another.
fact, parents are fulfilling their necessary obligations, some indeed do more
and better than others. Some do go the extra mile and help and encourage the
child on his or her chosen path in life while others do not and may even limit them
when it comes to their dreams and endeavors. Still, other parents continue
treating the adult person as children wanting them to obey and wishing to
discipline them when they are not acting in accordance with parental wishes and
here is where gratitude comes into play. We can be grateful for our parents,
family, and teachers as well as our nation, government, culture, and
compatriots without having to feel the urge to be indebted to them. This
is where the independent spirit plays an important role in which we choose what
we deem best for us instead of blindly obeying others or following rules,
impositions, or cultural and religious traditions.
Yet it is
equally important to underscore that, like anything in life, it is not a matter
of either/or but a combination of various factors that is ideally in harmony as
perfectly symbolized by the equal and calibrated forces of the yin and the
yang. An extreme assertion of independence will do more harm than good, and
neither is a complete abandonment and annulation of one’s own wishes and
same terms, even individualistic cultures are certainly not immune to the
feeling of feeling indebted. Our whole conception of work is based on the
idea that employees need to respect and obey their employers simply for the
act of being hired in a world where jobs seem - and often are - rather scarce
and hard to come by. It is not merely a matter of gratitude but one of deeply
ingrained debt. The “reward” for one’s hard work would be dished out in terms
But what if
we see the workplace as a more balanced interaction. The employee provides a
service or manufactures products that lead to overall gains and wealth for the
company and organization, while in exchange, elements of gratitude and appreciation are
often - but not solely – expressed and demonstrated in terms of monetary
compensation by the employer. This is where many employers often fall short;
they do not give enough thanks and should not ignore, neglect, or undervalue the
emotional aspects of this professional interaction between the two parties.
Once we see that we are not in debt nor need or ought to feel shame or guilt, then we feel free to live a freer and happier life that is more in tune with who we really are deep inside. And that is a path worth taking and would lead to abundance, not only in fiscal but more importantly in emotional and even spiritual terms. And this is certainly something to cherish and to be extremely grateful for.