Is it duty or obligation that compels us to act in a relationship?
What motivates us to help someone without receiving something in return?
As I explore the concept of connections (guanxi) in Chinese culture, I have started to think about my gestures of kindness in my relationships and where they originate. As a westerner, like many, the reply “it is my duty”, in return to a “thank you” for a gift or favor granted could leave me confused or even offended. But if duty is a way of showing honor as well as your status as a friend, then it is something to cherish.
In the west, we would just say you are welcome and move on. In China, I can only relate this as almost an unspoken relational contract between people. Western society in many ways lacks etiquette, protocol, and decorum. Certain formalities seem archaic, but help ensure a social structure around friendship. Duty then in this context means something entirely different. It is an action done because it is the right thing to do. It is what moves the friendship forward and continues the process. If someone disrupts this, many things will fall apart.
If it is our duty to love, care, help and listen then doesn’t it motivate us toward more? If we begin at duty, maybe we end up at commitment?