Accepting and Conferring

To accept a favour from a friend is to confer one – John Churton Collins

I picked a short one today I hope as I am feeling unusually ‘flat’ this week and am scared of what may pour forth. I am certainly not my usual upbeat, irreverent self. Back to the quote! To accept a favour from a friend. I like this simple message. To confer. Is that related to infer? Is there a word conferior like there is inferior? What would it mean? Well as con means with then if I am conferior to you I am 100% behind you, with you all the way, and want only the best for you, no matter our personal beliefs. See? Digressing in the first paragraph.

OK so imagine a friend offers you a favour – would you like me to babysit your newborn so you can get some sleep? That was a favour I had a really hard time accepting at the time even though I was struggling desperately with a husband who worked 6 days a week and travelled a lot, in a town where I knew almost no one. I did eventually accept (and was surprised how quickly and deeply I can fall asleep during the day) and was grateful. But why the resistance from me and why was it something they were happy to have me accept? Those are my questions here. Why would we ever resist a favour and why is it so enjoyable to do one?

Looking at acceptance; perhaps it means we might be putting the friend out in some way – No, it’s too much, I can’t accept. But that is our judgement, not theirs and we are putting thoughts in their head, thinking we know better. Ouch! Or it may mean we feel we owe them something. When I lived in Egypt I was told that this excessive generosity on the part of Egyptians is considered a way of life; that if you give unbidden, the other person will always be in your debt and you can ask something of them without feeling bad. But this sounds mercenary and not how I experienced their generosity. Often there was no way I could repay that generosity to us so I don’t think there was any ulterior motive. Anyway, if that friend is someone you don’t really trust, again you would not want to accept. You might feel there is a hidden agenda like parents often have with their kids. ‘I raised you and therefore you ‘owe’ me’. This is a contract unknown to the child, yet the parent seems disappointed when the child fails to jump at every whistle and be eternally grateful.

I do have difficulty accepting favours and I should think about why, for me personally. I think I am worried, not that they will think I owe them something but that I will think that I owe them something and am incapable or unwilling. Christmas can be agonising! She gave me this but I gave her nothing, or she forgot me, therefore she does not really care. Etc etc This is a false environment which sometimes misses the point of favours – that they are voluntary. If someone has given you a gift, be happy in order to give back, even if you have no physical gift to give them. If they count the lack of a gift from you, that is their belief, their choice and they can infer what they will. Communication may serve both of you well now if there was a hidden contract and you are not accepting graciously.

When I first read this, I imagined a lovely person offering a casserole to a person currently snowed under – such as when I moved house with 3 kids under 5 and my husband had to go overseas to a funeral that very day. The ladies group at my children’s school brought me a lasagna so that I would remember to eat amongst all the work. I gratefully accepted. Did I confer a favour? That group did not get together for nothing. They had a belief that they could be of service and they wanted to be of service, so yes I guess it is conferring favours by accepting their help. I didn’t see it that way at the time and now when I run into the lady that made it, 13 years later, as she lives locally, I always remember.

Some people feel they are born entitled and accept favours left, right and centre without a second thought. My daughter for one! I believe it is making her happier and less uptight so I am glad in a way. I cannot assume she is a ‘user’ if all the favour givers are being conferred upon and are genuinely happy to help. I certainly enjoy showing travellers around my area so I can hopefully absorb some of their joy at the beauty here.

The daft thing is that I am impulsive and offer favours very frequently. Sometimes I really regret them as I realise my favour might inconvenience my family, or does not take into account how I might be feeling at the time the favour is called upon. But mostly I get it, the favour is conferred on me instead. Not only do I feel like a nice person but things happen by the doing.

I have a very well meaning relative who would always confer favours, and though many were excellent ideas and offers, I became uncomfortable with the speed and efficiency with which those favours would change my day or life at that point. I became very resistant. I guess we just need to recognise that a favour means change and we don’t always want change.

I would like to help others find their dreams and having tested the water in little ways these past 3 months since I decided this, I realise how hard it is to do that. Doing favours can be hard. And if they had accepted, I would have been so happy. I think. They may have had their own reasons for not wanting what I thought would increase the quality of their lives and thinking, but really I was throwing mud around, hoping it would stick. If I really want to pursue this, I need the people looking for mud to come forward. And then let’s see where it takes me. In the meanwhile I can only learn what it takes to give; how to give graciously, respectfully and effectively. I am reading The Coaching Manual by Julie Starr which has been a real eye opener, not because I will definitely become a coach but in life skills and interaction. It often states the obvious that we take for granted.

We all go around with our head traffic, rethinking endlessly and confirming subconsciously our beliefs about the world based on our experience. When a favour comes along, it is like a hazard when driving. Despite the harsh word, in Australia anyway a driving hazard is defined as anything at all that can disrupt your path. It may even be something wonderful like a beautiful building or person that grabs your attention. So a favour is a kind of ‘hazard’ that disrupts your day. It is usually unexpected. We have to think and get our heads around what it will do for us, what it will do for the person offering it and how it will change the relationship. If you can keep in mind that the relationship is improved by accepting, there may be a little more closeness. You are perhaps rejecting yourself as well as the giver if you reject. If any of those people had accepted my offer of opening their eyes to the fun in life, they would have conferred a favour to me, definitely. I would get my act together to impart what I believe in a fashion more coherent than these posts and I might have felt useful, helpful and more creative in the doing of that ‘work’. They would teach me more than I teach them. Yes, we would spend more time together but that does not mean we are committed for life; it’s just a suggestion while it suits us both.

When I was younger and met strangers constantly from all my travels, I thought I had to keep in touch with all of them, or they would be sad and feel rejected. And I too would place meaning on whether they kept in touch. I am glad now to have gotten over that. It is not how it works at all. I talk to strangers in supermarket queues and anywhere I have to wait for anything and it is a favour if they talk back to me as much as it is a favour to them, if I can make them smile . Favours received and conferred abound in this way at supermarkets. Check it out. They are small favours – the favour of attention, of listening, of connecting and smiling. Easy to give and usually easy to receive. And the favours don’t stop there. Out walking in this area, 99% of passers by will smile, nod or say Good morning. Small connections, small favours are gratefully given and received. The ones that don’t connect stand out. They are in their own head space and I respect that.

What I have learned by writing today that by accepting more favours we are opening up our lives; opening it to connections as well as the favours. And I think we all need more of that!