We have often praised the show for its uplifting stories, and drawn inspiration from the characters and their moral victories. However, a recent episode, Rarity Takes Manehattan, brought something a bit more sophisticated than usual to the table. It touched upon the grim reality that sometimes our good nature is repaid with heartache. Our kindness is mistaken for weakness, our generosity – taken advantage of; our loyalty – betrayed.
When that happens, it’s hard not to feel like a chump. That sorrow, that loss of hope – it’s a very real threat we all face as life inevitably pounds us down. The fact of the matter is that a hardening of the heart sometimes does yield better short-term results. Having zero scruples makes most ambitions easier to achieve, and the notion that “nice guys finish last” is, sadly, not unfounded.
However, if you give up – if you come to believe that it really is every mare for herself – what does that yield in the long term? Unhappiness. Loss of friends – at least the sort of friends who genuinely care.
Around this time last year, I saw a woman shivering and crying in the cold. It was about 2 in the morning. She was sick with pneumonia and waiting for a bus that just wouldn’t come.
So I gave her a ride.
We talked. She told me of her lazy husband who’d refused to come get her in her hour of need. She wanted to make changes in her life. I tried to be neutrally encouraging and supportive without actually getting too involved.
Over the course of the conversation, I also told her the name of an over-the-counter sinus infection remedy that had helped me. She asked me to text a picture of it to her to help her find it in the drug store. I was, of course, a little wary about giving my number away to a stranger, but I did it anyway. I figured, “Well, she needs it.”
The next day I get a call. It’s the husband. “Who the hell is this, and why are you texting me drug ads?”
“Whew boy.” I thought.
I told him the truth. It was obvious that I was every bit as confused as he was, so luckily he didn’t get the wrong idea. Nevertheless, it was an unsettling call to get.
I took it as a lesson learned. Don’t give your number away, even if it’s socially awkward to withhold it. (The person you give it to may seem alright, but you never know when you will end up getting sucked into some kind of bizarre drama with her psycho husband). I figured the whole mess was finally over. I sighed in relief. As far as I was concerned, I’d just dodged a bullet.
The very next day, I get a text from the woman asking for help. Even now, I still don’t know precisely what sort of support she was looking for, because her text offered no explanation. It simply read, “I have a plan. U in?”
“This woman is crazy,” I thought. “And her husband is going to read that text, come looking for me, and shoot me in the face.”
I was left no choice but to tell her “no,” and cut off all contact. It felt awful, but whatever it was that this woman was planning, I was most certainly not “in.”
All I’d wanted was for a recovering pneumonia patient not to have to (literally) die in the cold waiting for a bus that would (literally) never come, but this woman saw a simple act of kindness, and mistook it as an invitation for me to come and “white knight” her through all of her personal problems.
I knew she was only acting out of desperation, but still, I felt used. It was that terrible sensation that Rarity knows all too well – when you come to suspect that no good deed goes unpunished.
However, if you let such experiences jade you – if you start to actually believe that life really is every mare for herself, all that happens is that you get robbed twice: once by the betrayal of the person you’d initially helped; and again by the loss of hope that follows – the loss of faith in the worthiness of attempting to lead a good life.
That kind of betrayal is far worse, because, at the end of the day, you’re really betraying yourself – who you are inside.
Now Generosity is a part of what makes Rarity Rarity. That’s what this episode was really about, not the Fashion Week contest. (Rarity’s actual recognition by Prim Hemline wasn’t even important enough to dramatize on screen).
Her real prize was a spiritual epiphany – a realization that she didn’t care about her own ambitions – that she’d been wrong to turn cynical and lash out at those closest to her – that she was dead wrong to lament her own generous nature. Her friends are what matter most to Rarity, and the sense of pride and dignity she feels when she can look herself in the mirror, and honestly say, “I am a generous pony.”
That’s the conclusion that I ultimately reached – that it doesn’t matter if you never ever get thanked – even if the person you help thinks you’re a rat bastard for not being “in” on their crazy “plan.”
If you look at an act of goodness as something that will automatically repay itself – a presumption that both she and I had made in both of our endeavors – you miss the point, and open yourself up to abuse. However, when you see goodness as an exercise in character, it becomes its own reward. You are your good deeds. No ingratitude or even betrayal can take that away from you.
As Rarity put it, “while there are ponies who will take advantage of your generosity, you should never, ever let that cause you to abandon your generous spirit.”
Never ever ever.
You can follow Help! My Heart is Full of Pony! on Tumblr. http://heartfullofpony.tumblr.com