Reciprocity Holds Relationships Together
We live in a society where we tend to measure everything we give and everything we think we deserve to receive in return. We spend a lot of time evaluating what others give back to us. Reciprocity has become a form of currency.
And this tends to cause a lot of suffering, because we often discover that we receive less than we think we give, which can make us feel unfairly treated and dissatisfied with our interpersonal relationships. But reciprocity doesn’t cause suffering if you discover the huge potential it has to help us enjoy our relationships and what we give to others.
Expecting things from others
We tend to expect from others at least the same amount that we’ve given them. This causes problems because we rarely feel reciprocated. We feel frustrated, like they’re using us, because they didn’t give as much as we expected back to us.
Expecting others to do certain things in a certain way, and then not seeing these expectations fulfilled, can be pretty disappointing. It can make you question whether you want to keep giving. It might seem more attractive to be a bit more conservative in what you give out.
“Friendship is a relationship of reciprocity.”
Often, what motivates us to give to others is our own interest in their well-being. We want them to feel good, to have everything they need, etc. And at first, we don’t want anything from them.
However, when we find ourselves in a bad situation, when we feel a lack of support, or when they don’t respond in the way we expected, we feel even worse. Now when we need a hand, nobody is prepared to give us one, even though we didn’t hesitate to give them one when they needed it. So then we start to think that what we receive has nothing to do with what we give.
The need to be valued
Even though we’re not aware of it, we often try to please others because we also need to receive. We give almost desperately, because we also need others to give to us.
We subconsciously think that “if I look out for others, they’ll look out for me,” but this is an erroneous belief that only leads to suffering and conflict in our interpersonal relationships. We’ve seen a thousand times that it’s not like that, even though we’re convinced that it should be that way.
It’s much healthier to look out for yourself, without expecting anything from others, and therefore without trying to please them in order to achieve this. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t look out for anyone. You can do so if you want, but avoid making it a condition in your mind that you should receive something in exchange.
In this way, the satisfaction of giving to others will become the only reason to do so.
The right to reciprocity
Having the right to reciprocity means allowing yourself to receive what others give you and enjoying it. If you don’t expect anything from anyone, gratitude and satisfaction will be maximized.
Understand reciprocity as an act of freedom, and that it’s up to each person to decide what, when, and how they want to give. And only with respect for other people’s decisions can you completely enjoy the benefits of reciprocity.
“The man is ungrateful who denies that he has received a benefit; who pretends that he has not received it; who does not return it. The most ungrateful man of all is he who forgets it.”
-Seneca the Younger-
Everybody decides whether they want to give or do something for someone. This means nobody owes anything to anyone. We’re all free, and we don’t have an obligation to reciprocate, just like nobody else is obligated to reciprocate us.
This way you can stop measuring what others give you, because that’s their decision, and they don’t have to give you anything, even if you already did it for them. In the same way, you’ll also stop feeling obligated or indebted to them.
Balance in interpersonal relationships
When we respect other people’s decisions, we discover a new way to understand relationships. It’s pretty likely that you’ll receive a lot from people that you didn’t expect, and these people probably won’t be the same ones that you gave to.
This is the balance of interpersonal relationships. It exists naturally, but it surprises us every time we don’t expect anything and receive a lot. In this way, reciprocity is converted into an instrument of spontaneous exchange, satisfaction, and gratefulness.
When it’s understood properly, reciprocity makes you feel more free and more responsible for your own decisions, while accepting and being grateful for what others give you. Understanding reciprocity this way will allow you to enjoy your relationships and everything you’re capable of giving to them.