Comments and remarks on the writings of Adam Smith's Theory of Moral Sentiments
Does a bank, having given a loan to one customer, clear and void that debt if the debt of a secondary customer is repaid? Does the hunger of a laborer become satisfied because his fellow laborer eats their fill? It seems obvious that, though the logical process of events is satisfied, their effects do not cross into one another.
The bank has a debt, and a debt is repaid, therefore the debt should be cleared, no? There was hunger in a laborer, and a laborer ate, so the hunger, too, should be satiated, no? Perhaps scoffable that I would posit such a statement, I would challenge the scoffer to examine how they handle gratitude and resentment. Akin to a mental debt, gratitude could be likened to being in the debt of another, and resentment could be likened to having another in your debt. In one case, you might seek to show your gratitude to another for some service they did you, or the other, wherein you demand remuneration from someone who has wrongdoing against you. Would the actions of another third party satisfy either emotional debt?
Unlikely. Until you can rest easy that you have displayed your gratitude in some regard, and the other party has had their happiness directly impacted by your action, you likely feel as though you must still service that debt, lest the debtor begin to feel you were ungrateful. And while misfortune can befall someone who has earned your resentment, and you might relish in their situation, unless their suffering is directly correlated to their debt to you, the punishment does not fit the crime, and their debt will continue to exist.
I would challenge you, dear reader, today, to examine the emotional debts, both that are owed, and you owe, from the other parties' eyes. How punishing must it be for someone in your debt to try and show their gratitude if you are oblivious or unaware. Being conscientious of others in your debt can afford you the insight to acknowledge others' attempts to show their gratitude, and, by allowing them to clear their debt, they will allow a new debt to come to light, should the occasion warrant it. Like a creditor builds trust with the bank, by incurring and clearing debt repeatedly, emotional credit can be built and won with others far more easily if any single emotional debt is not left unserviced for too long. And of the emotional debts that you are owed, what toll is extracted from each party by maintaining the debt? Surely an emotional debt, like a financial one, can accrue an interest of sorts, but is the person of your resentment likely to pay? Or, is it more likely that the emotional toll is only weighing on your own consciousness? As is often in the case of resentment debts, the borrower is unwilling, or unable, to pay in any meaningful way. Therefore, consider striking the debt clear of your own conscience for your own emotional well-being - though, like the banker, do not enter into negotiations or business with one whom carries bad debt. Acknowledging others' attempts to pay their debts, and ignoring those that are likely to default will leave you with more peace of mind, and stronger emotional connections.