Story: My Sister Wasn’t Sorry To See Me Go, But She Was Glad I Came.

For the weekly videos, I now tell a story. I’ve realized that for me, and I think for many people, a story is what holds my attention and makes a point most powerfully.

This week’s story: My sister wasn’t sorry to see me go–but she was glad I came.


Can’t see the video? Click here.

What does this story mean, exactly? I don’t think I captured it in my summation in the video. I meant to say: sometimes, even when we don’t enjoy something, or feel grateful for it at the time, we’re grateful for it later. So when I’m the person who’s giving that not-particularly-welcome help, I have to remember not to expect gold stars; the important thing is to be helping someone I love over the long term.

This can be hard for a gold-star junkie like myself! Do you ever battle this? Feel annoyed or disappointed when people don’t seem grateful, even if you know that in the long run you’re helping? This is particularly difficult, because sometimes people honestly aren’t grateful, and would prefer that we not “help.” In this case, it was clear that my sister did in fact welcome my help. And at the same time, she was glad to see me go!

If you want to read more along these lines, check out…

Taken for granted? 5 tips for dealing with feeling unappreciated.

Want to be free from French fries? Or, why abstaining may be easier than you think. [This isn’t related to the subject of the video but contains words of wisdom from my sister the sage.]

You can also read more about this in Happier at Home.

Find the archives of videos here.  More than 1.3 MILLION views. Don’t forget to subscribe!

  • Catherine Al-Meten

    I’m the sister on the receiving end of this in my family, and yes, you’re right. We are so glad you are part of our lives. You do things and see things so differently, and sometimes drive us crazy too. But that makes it easier, perhaps, to be there in a supportive way for others too. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Ahmed

    Well, that’s normal and it happens between brothers and sisters, if she were a friend of you she would say “Oh, You have to go!, I’m sorry but you’re gonna excuse me, right?,I’m in a mess as you see!”. But your sister will count on you will never get sad of here, so she will act in more “Transparency”.

  • jkitty

    I loved this video! It gives me words to describe a phenomenon that definitely happens, but I have never really consciously thought about.

  • Veronica

    Hit the nail on the head. I just had my mom in town for the long weekend and when she visits it means extra time with my aunt who lives in my area. I know I will be happy they were here, but I wasn’t sad to see them go. I felt under-appreciated while they spent time at my home and reading the 5 tips for dealing with feeling under-appreciated made me feel much better! I’m going to reward myself right now with a chai latte! 🙂

  • Dalon

    thanks so much for this reminder – it’s helpful to keep this in perspective (especially with family) and think about it BEFORE the visit – I am always happy afterward that I experienced the interaction – just sometimes I forget to enjoy it in the “now” 😉

  • I would always be more gracious than this, because being grateful and expressing gratitude to those who help me is the very essence of who I am, but have I felt this way? Absolutely, and for the same reason your sister did. I know that I sometimes need help getting rid of stuff and getting organized, but it is exhausting, because it is such difficult work making so many decisions under the scrutiny of a person, even someone I love, who doesn’t have those issues.

  • Nicole

    Nice story, you seem like a really helpful and caring person. I have a bother-in-law similar to your sister in the sense that I have helped him at home on numerous occasions without much thanks. Often I get annoyed but think that I am actually doing it for my sister’s sake.

    After watching your video I actually realised that part of the offering of help makes me feel good about myself.


  • I think this is the beauty of sibling relationships: you can be completely honest with each other and neither party takes it the wrong way. When the relationship is good, you have a deeper understanding of how they’re feeling compared to, say, a friend, without them having to vocalise it. It’s refreshing to know that my sister is the one person with which I don’t have to worry about niceties!

    Maria xx

  • Jenny

    I think this is all about delayed gratification, and for me it links up to having difficult conversations. It’s hard to have those big conversations with people, either my partner at home, or colleagues at work! I worry about it, it’s awkward at the time and requires a lot of energy. And it doesn’t always immediately make things better. But a week or a month later when I see some moment where we’ve pulled through, I’m so grateful that I put the effort in.

  • peninith1

    I have a dear friend who is full of all kinds of energy. She has come over and helped me on a number of occasions. Notably, just before my Mom moved down to join my household, she came and did two or three small repairs, changed lightbulbs that required ladder climbing and cleaned out my refrigerator with me as her obedient assistant. I was glad when the whirlwind marathon of work was done, and SO glad that she had come and made a lightning fast raid on small things that would have taken me weeks of getting to it one little bit at a time. I could not maintain that energy level all the time, but I am SO glad she brought it with her and not the least embarrassed that my fridge needed cleaning!

  • jenny_o

    Doing something for someone else is not JUST for that person; it is also for ourselves because it makes us feel like a kind, helpful person. In that way, selfless behavior can be partly a selfish act. Remembering that might help us need less acknowledgement, fewer thank yous or gold stars!

    • gretchenrubin

      In my case, strong element of that also because I love to clear clutter and organize! Nothing I love more than going to my sister’s house and cleaning out a closet.

  • Heathen

    I appreciate the Gold Star junkie acknowledgement. And not to do things and keep track of points. We are fostering a 16 year old boy. Man, it’s hard for me, not having had kids before, to stop keeping track of all the things I do for him and get resentful when I’m vacuuming up dirt from his shoes and he yells, “Heather, the cat just barfed!” Really? Can’t you get it? I need to always remember, I do it out of love.

  • lulu240788

    Mmm good point. My very good friend is going through a really tough time right now (there was a death in her immediate family) and I’m pushing myself to make the hour long drive to see her as much as I can (daily or every few days). She hardly said it at first, but as time has passed she’s been so appreciative of my support. Your story and my own experience now reminds me that those who aren’t openly grateful at the time are often the ones who need help the most.