On Benefits Book II, XI

A constant reference to one’s own services wounds our friend’s feelings.

Like the man who was saved from the proscription under the triumvirate by one of Caesar’s friends, and afterwards found it impossible to endure his preserver’s arrogance, they wish to cry, “Give me back to Caesar.”

How long will you go on saying, “I saved you, I snatched you from the jaws of death?”

This is indeed life, if I remember it by my own will, but death if I remember it at yours; I owe you nothing, if you saved me merely in order to have someone to point at.

How long do you mean to lead me about? how long do you mean to forbid me to forget my adventure?

If I had been a defeated enemy, I should have been led in triumph but once.

We ought not to speak of the benefits which we have conferred; to remind men of them is to ask them to return them.

We should not obtrude them, or recall the memory of them; you should only remind a man of what you have given him by giving him something else.

We ought not even to tell others of our good deeds.

He who confers a benefit should be silent, it should be told by the receiver; for otherwise you may receive the retort which was made to one who was everywhere boasting of the benefit which he had conferred: “You will not deny,” said his victim, “that you have received a return for it?”

“When?” asked he.

“Often,” said the other, “and in many places, that is, wherever and whenever you have told the story.”

What need is there for you to speak, and to take the place which belongs to another?

There is a man who can tell the story in a way much more to your credit, and thus you will gain glory for not telling it yourself.

You would think me ungrateful if, through your own silence, no one is to know of your benefit.

So far from doing this, even if anyone tells the story in our presence, we ought to make answer, “He does indeed deserve much more than this, and I am aware that I have not hitherto done any great things for him, although I wish to do so.”

This should not be said jokingly, nor yet with that air by which some persons repel those whom they especially wish to attract.

In addition to this, we ought to act with the greatest politeness towards such persons.

If the farmer ceases his labours after he has put in the seed, he will lose what he has sown; it is only by great pains that seeds are brought to yield a crop; no plant will bear fruit unless it be tended with equal care from first to last, and the same rule is true of benefits.

Can any benefits be greater than those which children receive from their parents?

Yet these benefits are useless if they be deserted while young, if the pious care of the parents does not for a long time watch over the gift which they have bestowed.

So it is with other benefits; unless you help them, you will lose them; to give is not enough, you must foster what you have given.

If you wish those whom you lay under an obligation to be grateful to you, you must not merely confer benefits upon them, but you must also love them.

Above all, as I said before, spare their ears; you will weary them if you remind them of your goodness, if you reproach them with it you will make them hate you.

Pride ought above all things to be avoided when you confer a benefit.

What need have you for disdainful airs, or swelling phrases? the act itself will exalt you.

Let us shun vain boasting: let us be silent, and let our deeds speak for us.

A benefit conferred with haughtiness not only wins no gratitude, but causes dislike.