Favors are a tricky, tricky currency.
Barring simple cases of give-and-take(like you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours), what goes around doesn’t always come around like you expect it to.
Say, I donate a kidney or two to a friend in dire need. I have in effect saved his life, haven’t I? But does that mean he will burst into tears of gratitude every time you meet, or jump in between you and a speeding car every few months or so? Probably not. He will thank you from the bottom of his heart for your kidneys at the time, but will probably never even pretend to match what you have done for him.
Or, a rather different example: Say you’re the boss in the office. Your juniors keep asking you for time off, lesser work, etc etc. You grant it to them as personal favors (“ I really shouldn’t, but just for you”) in your misguided quest for popularity, expecting them to call you a swell guy, the big guy who is the pal of the little guy. Then one day you get wind of the fact that all your employees gather around the water cooler and discuss you in very uncomplimentary terms.
How awful do you feel at their ingratitude?
But my point is not that the world is full of ingrates, though it is true. My point is you’re also at fault if you were doing them those favors for the wrong reasons, i.e. so that they would be beholden to you for the rest of your life in the first case, and be popular in the second.
If you do any one a favor in expectation of returns, you will always be left screaming ‘bloody ingratitude’. Unless, of course, you are Don Corleone and lead an army of (exceptionally good looking) Sicilian thugs. As a rule, I should say...if you want to do someone a good turn, even though he hasn't asked you to, and that good deed involves a lot of time and effort...do HIM a favor and don't do it. There is nothing as annoying as someone going to a whole lot of trouble for you when you didn't particularly ask him to in the first place.
For favors that you have been asked for, which you need to go MILES out of your way to do, I think there are some cardinal rules you should follow. (I will follow them too as soon as I’m done here.)
1. Do someone a favor only if:
(a) You want to: That way if he turns out to be the biggest ingrate alive, you’ve still done what you wanted.
(b) If he/she deserves it, and is thus the right thing to do: this way you’ve done a good thing by doing him a favor, ergo have earned brownie points with the Universe.
For both of the above if the person concerned accepts the favor, claims it was no favor, and then proceeds to plant a whopping knife between your shoulder blades - you still know that you had done the right thing.
2. Once the favor is done, try not to harp on how much you’ve helped a person. The person undoubtedly already resents being indebted to you, it only makes matters worse if you rub it in his face every other day. Just make sure he KNOWS this is WHAT you did, and try to get over yourself already.
3. Lastly, and most importantly - be prepared that the recipient of your favor will never consider the favor quite as large as you think it is. If that guy who took both of your kidneys comes around with a birthday present the year after the operation, but doesn’t show up at your funeral ( when you have inevitably died of complications from not having any kidneys left) - don’t be upset.
So, bottom line is don’t think of doing favors as an investment that will repay you with interest…it’s more like an echo, if the conditions are right it’ll come back to you(to the delight of one and all)…but in most cases it won’t.
Otherwise it’ll be you looking like a jerk, while they get to ignore you…until the next time they need a favor.