When a community of reciprocity is created, there are real opportunities to serve and be served. Then a neighborhood becomes less isolated and more self-sufficient as a whole. A feeling of “we can do this together” is created, and that’s healthy. –The Art of Neighboring
There is a programmed tendency in the human brain that makes community possible. It’s called reciprocity. Reciprocity is the tendency to feel like you want to give back to someone when they give to you (not that you “owe” them something). When this innate tendency functions as it was designed to, bonds are formed between people and relationships grow. When the tendency is rejected or abused, it causes division, suspicion and lack of trust (It’s used as a sales technique all the time).
You’ve been taught a myth
We’ve all been hammered with teaching about giving and can easily recite cliche phrases like “it’s better to give than receive.” While this is true, if you’re unbalanced either way in your relationships, it’s not healthy. It means you’re not a part of a reciprocal two-way relationship.
Unbalanced givers feel power
One way in which this principle can be abused is when a person rejects the gift of reciprocity by denying another the ability to reciprocate after they’ve given to them. People do this (usually unknowingly) for a variety of reasons, which have unfortunate consequences. When a person is imbalanced toward giving, they pose like they don’t need or want to receive anything from others. They don’t know this, but it makes them feel a sense of power that helps to boost their self-esteem. They do this because they equate neediness and vulnerability with inadequacy.
But what’s ironic is the denial of neediness and vulnerability actually shows off feelings of inadequacy. These are the people that, when you want to do something for them, it’s like pulling teeth to get them to agree.
Many times, they simply won’t let you win. They want to stay in a power position, and they don’t want to feel like they owe you something. It’s that person that can’t let you pay the bill at the restaurant. Know anyone like this? Maybe yourself?
There’s a big problem when givers can’t receive and squash reciprocity. It robs the others from contributing to the relationship and promotes independence (instead of interdependence) between the parties involved. You see, giving is just a means to an end. Giving is not a gift that exists simply for the sake of the transferring resources back and forth between one another. It’s doesn’t exist just so someone will have food to eat or clothes on their back. It’s a relational bonding gift that was never intended to be one-way.
Unbalanced receivers feel coddled
When a person is imbalanced the other way (only receiving and never giving), they are simply a burden to those around them. Instead of carrying one another’s burdens, their relationships consist of feeding off of others until they drain the life out of them. The belief that drives this behavior stems from the same inadequacy issue, but manifests itself in the opposite direction. Instead of wanting to feel like they are sufficient in themselves (like the power-trippers), these people seek coddling and affirmation to obtain their feelings of adequacy. They believe the lie that they are too inadequate to have anything to give. It’s likely that their gifts have been rejected by others or downplayed in the church or society in the past.
Inadequacy must be dealt with
So as you can see, it’s two opposite reactions to the same emotional issue. If we hope to truly live in Kingdom community, this issue will have to be dealt with between members. You will have givers and receivers. But, the only way the community will be healthy is if everyone learns how to be both. No matter how much money one makes or how talented they are at this or that, everyone has something to contribute. When we put emotional and physical barriers in the way from allowing everyone to participate in giving to each other, it creates relational problems and destroys healthy community.