Aug 142014 2 Responses

You Don’t Have to Scratch Mine

“I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine.”

This phrase of reciprocity often makes the world go ’round. None of us can make it through life without the help of others. We need others and others need us.

It’s a way of life I often follow. I shop local before going to national stores. I eat at restaurants owned by friends. I refer others to people I know and like. They help me so I am quick to help them. (See: Jesus, Leadership, and the Courage to Serve)

There is nothing wrong with this way of thinking. It is a healthy way to do business and live life.

Yet what if we removed the second half of the phrase?

Instead of looking for people who can help us and then going out of our way to help them, what if we just helped other people?

What if we lived by a “I’ll scratch your back” mentality? (See: Leadership, Leaves, and Why We Should Never Give Up)

The problem with reciprocity is that if we aren’t careful the only reason we give is to get. Service becomes a transactional relationship. We are constantly looking out for ourselves. Even when serving others, we are doing so with ourselves in mind.

This is not the nature of love. A truly loving act is one which is done for the benefit of another without expectation of getting anything in return. It focuses on the well-being of another so that oneself is not of consideration.

Consider: if the only time I scratch a back is when someone will (or might) scratch mine in return, who am I most likely to help? I help those who are equal or more powerful than me. I help others who I think can help me in return. So for me to help, someone needs to have something I want or some ability I need. I look toward others for what I need and then help them with the hopes of getting something from them.

It’s the way of reciprocity, but it is not the way of love.

Love does not serve others as a means to get something for self. It is not self-seeking because love is not self-seeking. Love so focuses on the object of its affection that it loses all sense of self. Love does not serve to get, but serves to serve.

When every action is lived in the mindset of reciprocity, we are not truly loving. We are simply playing a game of advancement under the guise of sacrifice. (See: Read This Before Your Die)

This is not to say reciprocity is inappropriate. It is often acceptable and wise to scratch someone else’s back if they will scratch yours. However, if that is the only reason you ever get out your back scratcher, something is wrong.

Reciprocity should be the exception, not the rule. The rule should be love.

Imagine if we began to serve people without any expectation of reciprocity. What if we went out of our way to serve so that the recipients of our service wouldn’t even know whose back they were supposed to scratch in return? What if we assisted others no matter their ability or inability to scratch back? What if we simply met every need we had the power and opportunity to meet no matter what we got in exchange for our service? (See: Never Try to Prove Yourself)

What if we simply scratched every back that itched rather than only scratching the backs who could scratch mine in return?

This is the way of love—to scratch every back we can reach no matter if they scratch ours in return.

2 Responses to You Don’t Have to Scratch Mine
  1. […] They have given a unique service without expecting or receiving special treatment. A veteran’... kevinathompson.com/veteran
  2. […] While I often desire to please people, my actual call is to love people. (See: You Don’t Have ... kevinathompson.com/people-pleasing

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