Monday, May 01, 2006

Reciprocity

My apologies go out to my cybernetic comrads out there (all three of you!). I haven't been as prolific with this blogging thing as I normally am. Mostly, I've been struggling through finals (as I'm learning graduate school is a lot more difficult than undergrad...). On top of that, there is something to be said about the whole 40+ hour a week employment thing. After a while, these types of things take their toll on even the most disciplined person.

However, if something compels me enough, I'll take a moment to comment on it. Whether it's something God put on my heart, a conversation that I had with someone, something that happened in the news, or an experience that I've gone through, I'll always find time -- irrespective to how busy I might be -- to share my thoughts on it. I had such an experience yesterday...

Without getting into all of the explicit details, I'll sum up my experience with one word:

Reciprocity.

...or, should I say, a lack thereof.

Let me ask you a simple question: At what point do you give up on the people for whom you'd do ANYTHING, when it appears that they've completely given up on you? I mean, how far do you go to be mindful and considerate of others when they fail to offer even a little consideration for you?

What happens if relationships that you've tried to form with others aren't met with any reciprocity?

- ACL

20 "Insiders" spoke their mind. Join in...:

joel said...

Hey Andre. Welcome back. Of course, I wasn't up in arms because you hadn't been blogging in a while. I figured you were just busy. Besides, I hope you don't get to the point where this is all you do! As much as I love your posts and truly respect your insight, I wouldn't expect you to become a blog addict!

Wow! It sounds like you're dealing with some trying issues here. I hope that I can help you a bit.

In Luke 11:5-10, Jesus tells an important parable about friendship:

5: Then He said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and goes to him at midnight and says to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves;

6: for a friend of mine has come to me from a journey, and I have nothing to set before him';

7: And from inside he answers and says, 'Do not bother me; the door has already been shut and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything.'

8: "I tell you, even though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

9: "So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it will be opened to you.

10: "For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.

What Jesus was saying in this parable is that, although not even friendship could compel this person to open the door to help his friend, the "persistence" of the man finally persuaded the friend to open up to him.

I think that the lesson to be taken from this passage is that sometimes even our closest relationships have limitations and that the only real solution is through persistence.

Don't give up brother!

Andre said...

Hey Joel. Good to hear from you.

Thank you for blessing me with your response. It added a much needed perspective to my dilemma.

Now, I'm not the type to argue or to question Jesus, but there are some gaps in this parable that I haven't been able to come to grips with yet (I imagine that I just need to pray about it). But, did the friend who 'gave in' to the knocker think to himself, "Damn! The only way for me to get rid of this guy is to give him what he wants." or was he thinking "You know, I really admire the fact that he's so persistence. I can see that he's serious, so I'll reward him by offering my assistance".?

My issue is simple: I don't want to be persistent with people if they are only going to respond to me "just to shut me up". I want people to uplift me simply because I'm a FRIEND who needs uplifting.

Again, I'd never say that I don't agree with Jesus or that I don't understand where He's coming from. It just helps for me to know the whole story so that I can apply it to my life. Your thoughts?

joanne said...

Hi Andre,

I'd like to also say that it's good hearing from you again. I completely understand the difficulties that come with balancing your life. Being a deaconness, raising children, having a full-time job; it's all hard work. But, it's good to hear from you again.

Before I got to the comment section, the scripture that Joel used automatically popped up in my head as well. I'm glad that the Lord put it on both of our hearts. It sounds like this is a word from the Lord that you needed to hear.

Joel is right. Friendship requires persistence. This doesn't mean that you turn into an incessant, powerless, dependent on other people to validate your worth. But, it does mean never giving up on your friends even if they don't immediately respond the way you think they should.

How many times do we thumb our noses at God? Yet, He continues to abide in us. He continues to pardon us by His grace. So too should we be willing to do the same for the people we call friends.

I'm really sorry you feel this way. But, I think that with prayer God will reveal to you what we've said. God Bless!

saved_sinner said...

Andre,

Don't fret, brother. For every person out there who's against you, you can find someone who's in your corner. For instance, I seem to recall you mentioning a special person in your life. Perhaps this is one of those times when you need to rely on her more. After all, I believe (as I suspect that you do) that God put people in our lives for a reason.

kc said...

I'm with you on this one Andre. I think that before you interpret the scripture as "do everything you can to be persistent", you should really go to God in prayer about it.

I don't claim to be the best bible-thumper out there, but I do know that much of Jesus' teaching had meaning that went beyond ordinary understanding. You point that out in just about every one of your entries.

Be careful not to burn bridges, but also don't continue to invest in things that don't yield a return.

Andre said...

@ joanne: Thanx, as always, for your encouraging remarks.

I can see where you and Joel are both going with the "persistence" thing. But, from the sounds of it, I'd say that you're confusing "persistence" with "forgiveness". The experience that I had involves a lack of reciprocity on the part of the other folks involved. I've forgiven them for it (I think...), but I'm not trying to put myself in the same vulnerable and hurtful place again. Forgiveness is saying "So, you're not gonna open the door, eh? Oh, well. I forgive you anyway." Persistence is like saying "I'm gonna stand here and knock until you answer the door", while hoping that they'll eventually let me in. But, I think I'm getting to the point where I don't want to knock anymore. My knuckles are starting to bleed...

@ saved_sinner: Uh, no comment...

@ kc: I agree, dawg. I think that there's something more to "persistence". I mean, there's a fine line between being persistent and foolish. These guys have made it clear to me that they're not interested in reciprocating my actions, so I'd be silly to think otherwise.

Diane said...

Andre, I read this and the comments already on here, then left for a while to think about this before I commented.
There comes a time in some relationships where the return you get for your emotional and physical investment in the relationship is less than you are spending on it. In other words, you are coming out in the hole, giving more than you receive. Most of the time, these relationships dwindle away for lack of reciprocity. It sounds like you are at that stage in some of your relationships. As long as you keep giving, they will keep taking without consideration for your needs in these relationships. This is an unhealthy situation for all parties. It's time, after much consideration and prayer, to make an emotional break from these situations. Pray about this until you have a clear spiritual slate with God, that you have no fault in these situations, nothing left undone, then distance yourself from the relationships. If you continue in these unhealthy relationships, you enable them to continue to be users, and you continue in the pattern of allowing yourself to be used. Nobody wins.

If you really think there might be something salvageable in any of these relationships, go to the person in question and be honest with them, telling them the truth in love. Take a trusted Christian brother with you if you feel led, so that if there is discord, the brother will be an intercessor between you, and a witness that you did your best to make things right in a Christian manner. If it is meant for the relationship to be healed, God will intervene, and if it's time to move on, He will show you that, too.

I'm sorry that you are dealing with these issues, but it comes to all of us sooner or later, either in a romantic relationship, family situation, friendship, or a Christian brother or sister.

I hope this perspective helps. I think of these emotional and spiritual struggles as a fire. The closer you are to the fire (situation) the more it burns, or hurts. But back away, either emotionally, spiritually or physically distance yourself from the problem, the less it burns. When you're burning, that's all your mind can deal with at the time. Back off to a safe distance, though, and you can think about taking inventory of the situation and binding up the wounds, and healing.

I have already been praying for you, Andre, and I will continue to pray that God will give you insight in this situation, that He will reveal His will to you, and that He will give you His peace, the peace that passeth understanding. :)

natasha said...

Hi Andre,

How have you been love?! Long time, no see!

I'm really sorry to hear that you're in this situation. I can imagine how hard it is to contemplate relationship breakups. But I think that lenadianejennings was right. By allowing your unhealthy and, obviously unfulfilling friendships to go on, you're really sacrificing your own well-being. If the relationships are not reciprocal and you're putting more in than what you're getting out, then you're spending precious time in your life on people that don't add anything to your life. That's a very scary and sad thing to do.

If the relationships you're talking about are just downright unhealthy, you run the risk of doing serious emotional (sometimes even physical) damage.

How much are you worth to yourself?

Anonymous said...

It seems like there is a mix of opinion in this comment section. You've got some saying to be persistent and others saying to break apart. But you need to remember first and formost that God intended for us all to have connections with people at one level or another. Isolation will never be the answer. You need to search deep in your heart to see what God wants you to do. Don't fly off the handle and do something that you will regret down the road. But also don't put yourself in a position to get hurt by others. Go to God, He is the ultimate waymaker. He has the power to help you. But, be willing to accept whatever He puts on your heart. There are no ifs, ands, or buts.

Anonymous said...

I know that you didn't want to go into details about this situation, but have you tried talking to your friends about the situation, to see where their coming from, better yet, do they understand where you are coming from? Your situation might be viewed differently from another perspective. If they are your friends, then they will consider your feelings, but have you considered theirs?

Anonymous said...

Hey Andre, I'm one of your anonymous fans!

Here's my question/comment:

Just how serious is the situation? Is it something serious, as in you were in the hospital and no one came to visit? Or is it something that can be considered trivial? Like, "no one called me yesterday"

I'm asking because a lot of times we blow things up in our own heads to make them seem really important (think of how women can be sooooo upset that their man didn't compliment them. For them that's a "serious" issue but for the man it's just "whatever)

Are you sure that this is something that can be considered "serious"

By the way, do these "friends" of yours read the blog? If so, how would they feel about what you wrote? Is that being considerate?

Anonymous said...

Wow! Hot topic!

There are two sides to EVERY story...What's their side?

Andre said...

@ Diane: I can always count on your constructive (yet, sometimes stinging) input. You're clearly a woman of God who has an unmistakable knowledge of Him and an ability to share it in a spirit of love and truth. I'm a fan!

I have to admit, however, that - even as you clearly diagramed what I need to do - I'm not sure if I have the courage to carry it out. My list of friends and allies is stretched thin enough as it is. But, I guess that the 'writing is on the wall' now. The message is pretty clear, if I can muster up enough nerve to accept it.

You know, if I was to try and sell myself, I think that I'd market my selflessness, generosity, and kindness toward others, especially those who I've sort of "knighted" my friends. For me, the highest tenant of a friendship is the other person's ability to reciprocate those attributes. I place a more value on that than I do ANYTHING else. But, once it's clear to me that I'm the one always giving while everyone else keeps taking, I need to reevaluate things.

As painful and scary as your comments were, they are greatly appeciated!

@ natasha: Ditto to everything I just said.

I think that a lot of the mental, emotional, and -- sometimes -- even physical damage that falls on us is a product of holding on to things that do us harm; certain relationships, attitudes, possessions, etc. It's up to us to determine what things and people contribute to our well being and/or breakdowns.

Thanks for pointing that out.

@ anonymous #1: I agree that sentiments are stretch across the board one this one. I think that, on the one hand, it's encouraging to know that there is more than one approach to dealing with my dilemma. But, on the other hand, its just complicates things that much more.

But, all things equal, I appreciate your middle of the road approach to seeing things. I'm trying not to 'fly off the handle' (which is hard to do, given how much this all stings), but I'm not going to allow stuff like this to continue picking at me. I don't plan to have this issue again.

@ anonymous #2: I deliberately chose not to address this issue directly with those in question because it's been brought up before. Rather than allowing myself to turn into a nag, I share my thoughts on the issue the first time it occurs and use that to dictate their actions. Simply put, if the situation is already addressed at one point, but it later finds a way to resurface, then -- in my view -- progress has not been made, nor will it ever. You can only express concerns so many times before you give up on it.

@ anonymous #3: I don't know who reads this stuff (sometimes, even I have a hard time stomaching this stuff...and it's my own blog). But, I haven't mentioned the particular incident (which inspired this entry) to the people in question. So, even if one of them reads this post, I don't think they'd put it all together. In fact, I actually DON'T plan on mentioning it. As I said earlier, this is a discussion that has already been shared before. That didn't stop the situation from recurring. That being said, I don't see the point of bringing it up again. Besides, as I've always maintained, if those people in question had the same level of consideration for me as I do them, this post would have been about the racism of the NFL draft or something I saw on CNN (both to be discussed later. Stay tuned...)

Thanks for all of your comments.

Andre said...

@ anonymous #4: I can't say for sure. I haven't raised the issue with them. In fact, I don't think they even know that I have an issue with them. I don't think they even realize what they've done.

I think that's the unfortunate part...

rhynoman said...

You know Andre, there's a saying that my pastor once used. He said that when you make a leap of faith, God will provide the net. Maybe instead of playing a guessing game in your head, you take your leap and trust that God will make provisions for you.

OK. You've noted that there isn't any "reciprocity" in your relationships. And? What do you do? Do you hang on to these relationships and stay angry and unhappy or do you try something new and uncertain? Either way, you're going to be in an uncomfortable situation.

But, please be sure: you're gonna have to make your leap soon. Just make sure it's a leap of faith.

Andre said...

@ anonymous #2: I don't think that I entirely answered your questions/comments. I think I actually answered anonymous #1 twice (it's easy to mix up people when they don't use names. *Ahem* anonymous 1-4! :)

At any rate, to answer your question: to some people, the act of consideration that I'm talking about may not really be that big a deal. But, to me, it represents a much bigger picture. I mean, if I happily do something REALLY BIG for a person, but they don't have the common courtesy to do something SMALL for me, then I have a problem.

Now, to be clear, I don't have an issue with the LEVEL of consideration that a person has for me. What bothers me is when they LACK consideration altogether. For example: if I spent $100 on a birthday gift for you, I wouldn't get upset if your birthday gift to me was only $10. You at least made an effort to reciprocate my gift-giving. Where I would be disturbed is if, after I gave you a gift, you didn't even bother to invite me to your party.

Please don't think that I would EVER measure reciprocity by dollars and cents. This issue REALLY boils down to a person's heart and their willingness to express their love and appreciation for me...even if that means doing those "trivial" things.

tiny_tot said...

I've been trying to follow this conversation. I think I get your point but I have to ask why you feel like you have to do things for other people. Do they ask you to or do you chose to? I had a friend who always complained about doing things that nobody made him do. If your expression is so heart felt, why does it matter what they do for you?

Andre said...

Wow. I feel like I'm spending more time defending myself than I am in getting my questions answered. But, I'll go on and participate in this slugfest, if that makes you happy.

When it comes to doing certain things for my friends, nobody's putting a gun to my head and making me do them. I do them because I enjoy sharing things and experiences with the people closest to me. I could always just look out FOR ME, but I find it enjoyable and fulfulling if I can share with my friends. I get conflicted when they don't have the same ideas about me. Hence, the reciprocity questions raised in this entry...

djg said...

It sounds like you've got some serious praying to do, my friend.

But, think of it this way: Jesus came to Earth to die for the sins of everyone, including His friends. But, when things got dangerous for them, they all deserted Him. Imagine carrying the burdens of the whole universe and having your closest friends, the ones who have witnessed firsthand your good deeds, and watching them all leave you one by one. Everything is relative.

Smart Person said...

Okay Andre here goes....

I apologize that you feel that you have to defend yourself in this post. I don't think that anyone is really attacking you. We're simply asking probbing questions to try and figure out the best way to resolve your problem.

As far as reciprocity goes here's my view (Yes I am a Christian)

Is there no resiprocity AT ALL in the relationships, or just pertaining to ONE issue?

See I've dealt with a similar issue: A friend of mine was excluding me from hanging out with him. At first he and I had been friends and then he started hanging out with a mutual friend and excluding me, even "dissing" me (I hate that word)when I showed up to his house. I brought up the issue several times, only to be shrugged off as "it's all in your head". It was only after I cussed him out that I found out that he was trying to "get" with the girl. He then went on to explain that the reason why he didnt tell me was because he didn't have to tell me everything (Which was correct)

Although I was initially hurt by the situation, I had to get over it. Just because he didn't deal with the situation the way I FELT THAT HE SHOULD, didn't mean that he didn't love me or that we weren't friends.

I went through this long story to say that just because your friends don't handle a sitaution the way that YOU feel they should handle it doens't mean that they are being inconsiderate of your feelings. I'M PRETTY SURE THAT YOUR FRIENDS READ THE BLOG AND ARE VERY AWARE OF HOW YOU FEEL, THEY'RE PROBABLY JUST UPSET THAT YOU DECIDED TO ADDRESS IT WITH TOTAL STRANGERS ON A PUBLIC FORMAT INSTEAD OF BRINGINT IT TO THEM, NIEVLY THINKING THAT THEY DON'T READ YOUR BLOG.

Thank you, drive through