The Fallacy of Coercion

March 25, 2023- Once, after Penny’s funeral, when I found a modest, but pliable, insurance deposit in my checking account, I got a call from someone who used the fact, that I had only myself to support, as a springboard to ask that I help fund a surgery that was needed. In those days of some confusion and recovery that accompanied the grieving process, I did not project ahead to the expenses of the ensuing four months before the final life insurance settlement would find its way to me. It felt like it was my bounden duty to help this individual, who had little. The choice was made to proffer a substantial amount in that direction. Fast forward three months, and I received a proposal from my handyman to renovate the house. Without giving it the proper amount of thought, I initially agreed to his offer, only to do the math afterward-and to end up cancelling the project, thus burdening him with returning the materials-and burdening myself with the loss of a friend.

I have come to the realization, these many years later, that there really was no coercion from anyone. I made both decisions, conflicting as they were, out of a desire to make someone else happy. To what extent the first person achieved happiness is a matter of opinion. I have not been willing or able to continue to dole out money in that direction. It goes without saying, that the second person is just as glad if he never sees me again.

In life, there are relatively few matters that are imperative. A parent must do the best to raise any child, who is birthed or adopted, to adulthood. A pet owner must see to the animal’s well-being. A citizen must contribute to the support of community, state and nation-both financially and civically. A worker must do the best to fulfill the basic requirements of a job. Communities must provide for the education of their young and for the basic care of disabled and elderly residents.

All else, however, is a matter of choice. In the 1970s, the comedian Flip Wilson had a routine, on his television program, in which he played a character whose retort to being chastised was “The devil made me do it.” We Baha’is know the “devil” to be the ego of a person, when it entices one to overindulge base instincts or desires, acting against the better nature. It was anthropomorphized long ago, in the days of Babylon-and has had a physical image ever since. This has the effect of allowing a person to deflect any blame for actions-which was exactly Wilson’s point. That such self-indulgence can generate negative energy, which can and does harm self and others, does not change the essence of its nature.

There is much that I take on, both paid and volunteer work. In each case, I have come to the understanding with myself that my choices are made strictly in consulting with my conscience, and not because of any pressure from outside. Guilting, whining or yelling and screaming have only made me turn away from the supplicant. There is no such real thing as coercion, when you give the matter some thought.

4 thoughts on “The Fallacy of Coercion

  1. I’m glad you have seen the pros and cons of handing out money to anyone who requests it. I receive dozens of pleas from every Democratic candidate for national office, as well as from the DCCC and the SCCC, and more recently the DNC. I have written each of them (unsuccessfully, I might add) that if I donated even $5 to each plea, I would be bankrupt in short order! I will likely donate a small amount to the DNC before the end of the year, but the others simply get erased from my emails!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An agreement to renovate is a business transaction and really isn’t part of a friendship. The consumer is allowed to cancel services… And that shouldn’t impact a friendship. Sorry that this former friend couldn’t separate the two. As for pleas for money – I’m very selective. Random requests even from friends and relatives, is not acted upon…

    Liked by 1 person

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