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Content warning: Brief references to physical and emotional abuse.
I believe in karma if the term is used to describe natural consequences for your behaviour and why it’s important to help others when you can and build warm, loving relationships with a core group of people.
Let me give some examples.
My maternal grandmother has been kind, generous, and welcoming for her entire life. When she needed knee surgery years ago, she was surrounded by love and support. Some of her adult children travelled long distances and gave up scarce vacation time to look after her. Friends and local family members stopped by with food, to help with chores, and/or to give her some cheerful company during her convalescence. (She’s doing great now, by the way).
A different relative of mine has been emotionally and sometimes physically abusive since the 1970s. They talk about how lonely they are now, but they also refuse to stop being abusive or to take even the slightest bit of responsibility for the serious harm they’ve caused.
(I do not mean to say that relative #1 is perfect or that relative #2 has never done anything good, by the way, but their lifelong patterns of behaviour have greatly influenced their reputations and their relationships – or lack of relationships – with others now that they are senior citizens).
For the past decade, I have only seen relative #2 rarely, briefly, and when I can’t possibly avoid it. Our conversations are only about the weather or similar topics because they have a long, ugly history of twisting even the most innocuous information into fodder for more abuse. This is one of those situations when small talk is a lifesaver!
I believe that both of these people are reaping and will continue to reap the consequences of their actions. How you treat those around you is important in and of itself even if the specific people you help are never personally in a position to return the favour. Others notice how we all behave, too, and this can affect what kinds of help you will (or won’t) receive when you need it.
So, yes, I do believe in karma to a limited extent.
With that being said, I do not assume that everyone who is going through a difficult time (or, for that matter, is wildly successful) is any worse or better than the rest of us. That’s too simplistic in my opinion. Both positive and negative things happen to all of us eventually no matter what sort of person you are.
Being kind and good will not automatically protect you from everything, and people who choose to harm others terribly are not doomed to face immediate consequences. Some of them prosper for many years.
Life is complicated, and you never know what’s really going on behind closed doors or what someone might be privately struggling with. Sometimes it takes karma a long time to kick in, and not everything has been accounted for yet by any means.
I have seen people suddenly reap the consequences of their actions in both positive and negative ways years or even decades after those deeds were done. You never know what the future holds, and I choose to believe that people who quietly help others will reap the rewards of their kindness someday.
Even if I’m wrong about that, I’d still rather do what I can to make the world a better place in the small ways I can than to twiddle my thumbs and do nothing at all.
But I’m still never going to be a caregiver or regular visitor for relative #2 if or when they live long enough to need assistance. That bridge was burned to the ground many years ago metaphorically speaking, and I’ve planted a peaceful, healing garden in the ashes of it that only safe people are welcomed to enter.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you subject yourself to more abuse, friends. Ironclad boundaries are an excellent thing for unfortunate situations like these.