give and take

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the nature of my relationships.

It seems there’s often an implicit code that dictates a friendship should be transactional. I do something for you and you do something for me. It’s very apparent this is capitalism bleeding into intangibles that should transcend commodification.

Ultimately, when you give someone a gift or do something for someone, it should always come from a place of generosity. You give the gift or perform the deed without the expectation of reciprocation. Nothing about giving to those we love should be considered a transaction.

However…

To give selflessly without ever receiving anything in return is masochism. Case and point: The Giving Tree.

This childhood classic isn’t the story of a tree who gives selflessly, but the story of a tree who doesn’t know how to say “no,” who doesn’t set boundaries, and eventually gives everything she has to a boy who remains incapable of offering even the simplest, “Thank you.”

Relationship is a dance. It requires the ebb and flow of mutual generosity. We must give without the expectation of return, while also stopping before we’ve given too much.

As with so many things, this is a balance of contradiction, the kind it takes a lifetime to figure out.

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