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You may not know it, but ‘Utang Na Loob’ can do you more bad than good

Utang na loob or debt of gratitude has been ingrained in the Filipino culture for who knows how long, it makes us think that we have to return the favor to the person—especially if they extended a big help for us. It is good that we know when we have to be grateful but it isn’t good when it affects how we decide or act around others. Here are some instances when utang na loob becomes a bad thing:

Also Read:“The worst fight I had with my family–and what I learned from it!”

When it clouds your better judgment

(Image Source: Claudia Wolff)

Utang na loob can admittedly lead to blind loyalty, where we, as recipients, see our benefactors as perfect. But we all know that this kind of loyalty is unhealthy. Yes, you can be grateful to someone who helped you get through a rough patch, or saved you from a terrible situation, but it doesn’t mean they’re always right and couldn’t make mistakes.

An example is when a daughter lets a parent get away with doing something that’s against her principles just because they provide her needs and wants. Utang na loob should never be a reason for us to ignore the red flags around us. One thing to remember is that you can be grateful and objective at the same time. It will save you from making bad decisions that are based on blind loyalty.

When it stops you from doing what’s right

(Image source: Ernest Brillo)

In our culture, the excuse “Wala akong magagawa. May utang na loob ako sa kanya.” has been used for the longest time. Utang na loob makes us ignore our principles for someone who’s helped us at some point in our life. We’d let it slip when our benefactor does something wrong because we have a sense of gratitude towards them.

However, if you realize that something goes against your principles, you should find ways to build the courage and say no, and do the right thing. Always.

When giving becomes a form of manipulation


Have you ever witnessed how some can be generous with an agenda? How they can give with the expectation of loyalty and obedience in return? This practice is not uncommon in the Philippines; being a country where so many have little, people are almost always ready to jump into any opportunity that is labeled as “free”. But what we don’t realize is that in the long run, it might cost us our freedom.


We must remember that the price of one man’s generosity should never be another one’s soul. As Pope Francis once said, “To change the world, we must be good to those who cannot repay us.” We should be generous because we want to be, not because we are expecting anything in return.


For the full article, grab a copy of My Pope Philippines November 2019 issue.
Text by Tata Mapa.


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