Do unto others as you would have others do unto you… and all the other variations of that thought.
Now, there are those who read that to mean – Do to others the shit they will probably do to you before they do it to you. Get in first. Slap them before they slap you. There is a certain logic to it. However the problem with that way of interpreting the thought is that if people were not going to do to you what you thought they might do, you may well have inspired them to treat you the way you have just treated them. Tit for tat. People are petty. Pettiness is a form of redressing balance, it may not be pretty but it has a reason for existing. Some people just don’t understand others, and sometimes the only way to get through to them is to speak their tongue. I know, don’t stoop to the level of others, but stooping has its uses. Stoop to conquer. And it keeps us flexible.
If you’re busy being very fair, moral, good, and zen while someone is repeatedly hitting you. If you’ve asked them politely to stop, then a little less politely, then very sternly, perhaps even raised your volume to a shout, yet they keep hitting you. Because they are not listening, they can’t hear you over the din inside their mind ordering them to hit you, because perhaps they believe you attacked them first, thus everything they do to you is fully justified. Then the only way to stop them from hitting you is to thump them hard on their head. Even that may not get through their hard head to get your point across to them, but it might knock a bit of sense into them, or a bit of stubbornness out, and it might hurt enough for them to reconsider the wisdom of hitting you. You’ve spoken to them in their language, because they don’t understand yours at all and have no intention of learning it. They think your language is stupid. They think you are stupid, for speaking a stupid language, and for allowing them to hit you for so long without reacting.
Give out what you would like to get back, you may not get back what you give out, you may get something much better or something decidedly worse or nothing at all. It’s a gamble in some ways.
If your reason for giving is based on what you are hoping to get back. If that is why you give, then you put yourself at the mercy of others. Your gift, be it kindness, love, or an actual material object, is a question waiting for a reply, a hand waiting to be taken. In some cases it is a blackmail letter awaiting payment. To give hoping to get the same in return is a seed of frustration. I listened to you, why won’t you listen to me! I care for you, now you have to care for me too!
Since others often don’t get what we give, the gift gets lost in the mail, in the air between you and me. Since what they get is often not what we were giving, we gave our version of love, they got their version of neediness, since they don’t like neediness, they return our love with their rejection. If they do happen to get exactly what we gave them, if our version of a high five is also their version of a high five, they may still leave our hand hanging in the air, they just may not feel the need to return it, they may not be in a high five mood. Our life may be great at the time, theirs may be weighed down by seriousness. Perhaps we want to give them some of our happiness because we want them to be happy too, but maybe being happy is not what they need or want, maybe being serious is exactly the mood they need to be in to deal with their life at the moment. Our version of happy may be the same as their happy, but since they are not happy, they can’t accept it or return it even if they would like to, it just isn’t possible at this time please try later. If you keep insisting that they have to be happy, because you are and are generously giving some of your happy to them, then your happy may be making their seriousness turn into serious annoyance.
If your reason for giving is just to give, unconditionally, with no expectation of a return, because giving is the return for giving. If you are doing it to please yourself, then doing what you are doing to others is the reward, the thing you get back. In other words you behave the way you do to others to satisfy your own needs. If you get something back, good or bad, or a bit of both, then you can decide whether that is a gift you would like to accept or not. You gave freely, and therefore you are also free. Giving in this manner means the hand that gave isn’t open waiting for a hand out, it is closed, holding within it the pleasure of having given and shared. It’s not a closed fist, it’s just not expecting anything. Then if someone chooses of their own free will to give to you a similar gift, it is a bonus. Unexpected and much appreciated… as long as their gift is also unconditional.
If their return gift has strings attached then you get placed in a position which asks you to choose between two options:
You can accept the gift, aware of the strings attached, but accepting it may mean that you are signing a contract to return to them what they gave to you. This contract may be very binding, have lots of small invisible print, and last for a long time with endless rituals of give and take, and you may begin to wish that you had never given them anything, that they had refused to take what you were giving, or that they had not given back.
Or you can refuse to accept the gift, not sign the contract, but they may refuse to accept your refusal. Some people get mad if you refuse their gifts, and they may give you another gift which may be unpleasant.
Some people use gifts as a way to get you to owe them, and to own you. Those gifts, whether you want them, asked for them, needed them, or not, are debts you will never repay, because the person giving them is using them to get as many gifts out of you as they can. They want all your treasures, and they intend to have them whether you want to give them or not. They will come down hard on you if you refuse to give them all that they are generously willing to take. How selfish of you!
Give and take is very complex, even though it seems very simple. What we sometimes forget is that there are layers of give and take to give and take. Accepting a gift, is also a form of giving, even though it appears to just be the taking part of the give and take equation. And accepting is a very powerful element in human interactions. Accepting relies a lot on understanding. Understanding exactly what the gift is which is being given, whether you are doing the giving or being given to. Understanding the intentions behind the gift. Understanding the person behind the intentions behind the gift, who they are, why they are giving, what the gift means to them, what they think it should mean to you, and so on. Without understanding, appreciation levels vary. Appreciating a gift is a gift too, an intricate part of the process. Something which means a lot to you, may mean absolutely nothing to another, and so the value of the gift you give may be lost to them. And so on.
So, I am going to give you a question… what you do with it is up to you. What do you think?