The debt of gratitude or “utang na loob” is one of the most difficult, if not impossible, debts to pay. One reason is that it does not necessarily have a monetary value or proper way of paying back.
It does not even require to be paid in cash, whether in installment or in full. But it can linger for a long time — it may even outlive a generation.
The sad part is that debt of gratitude is very endemic to the Filipino culture. While it can even be viewed as noble, it can also be a trap for some.
People would sometimes even go further than what was initially given or provided because of what it symbolizes — an opportunity, a foundation to build upon, or even hope.
The debt of gratitude can also be attributed to a favor, which in some instances, a previous benefactor may try to charge you in the future.
But is there a better way to pay our debt of gratitude?
I don’t believe in paying a debt of gratitude. I don’t say this because I think I deserved the help I had along the way, but trying to pay for it is an endless cycle.
A debt of gratitude can even cloud our judgment regarding people who initially helped us.
I believe that help should be given without any strings attached, and if we don’t learn to “pay” this debt of goodwill in other means, we will just be tied to our benefactors.
We need to stop the cycle of being indebted to something that we never had a choice, to begin with, something like the debt of gratitude to our parents and family.
Paying the Debt of Gratitude Towards Our Family
If there are people whom we are deeply indebted to, it would be our parents because they helped, took care of, and provided for us.
However, if we look at it from another angle, it would appear that it was them who decided to have children, and attached to that decision is the responsibility to support their child.
So as children, we should not feel that we should pay such debt. Because if not, this will only cause too much pressure on our end. And that is the reason why so many people are stuck in the sandwich generation.
But if there is any reason to give back, it should be out our love for our family, and not out of obligation.
If we give back out of love, it will not feel like a duty, and striving for a better life for our family will be easier.
Another way to pay them is never to take the privileges and opportunities they sacrificed for go to waste or for granted.
Since they strive for our education, we should do our part to maximize that chance for a better future.
Opportunities are paid for by the previous generation’s blood, sweat, and tears, and doing our best to succeed will give pride and honor to their sacrifices.
Pay it forward.
A better way to pay for our debt of gratitude is to pay it forward once we attain a certain level of success.
We need to extend the help we first received and pass it on to the next generation without asking for anything in return.
More than the money that people need to elevate their lives, is the opportunity to feel that they can succeed. One part of that is monetary, and another is education and the belief that they can alleviate their current distress.
Each person’s journey will start at different points. Some will come from behind, some will have a few steps ahead, and others will be yards away. And being an agent of change for another person’s life will be a better way to pay off your debt of gratitude to your benefactor.
I always remember what a pastor often says in his preaching: we should be a channel and funnel of blessings.
The blessings that we received are not just for our own but also for others. And if we will truly learn to love others as ourselves, then our world may be a better place.
Start today. Pay it forward. God bless you!
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