…living in reciprocity

“Tsze-Kung asked, ‘Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?’ The Master said, “Is not Reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.’”—Confucius

Accustomed to sharing with a high degree of give and take, I was recently disappointed by a few people who let me down.

“Lower your expectations and don’t take any of it personally,” were the words of advice I received from a few friends. We all slip up, and have times when we cannot follow through on commitments as we hoped. Life circumstances sometimes thwart our best laid plans.

The type of disappointment I am feeling here is deeper as it involves the hurt at discovering someone is not who they said they were, or sadly, who I believed them to be.

In continuing to dig deeper, I am mostly disappointed in myself for once again trusting too easily in the goodness of another– a flaw of mine that goes way back to when I was a little girl and naively believed that like Santa Clause, everyone would bestow their best gifts on me.

Sometimes, people want to TAKE our best gifts—whether it is our business expertise or our caring nature–without giving too much in return. In these cases, we owe it to ourselves and our sense of self-esteem to set boundaries—or disengage altogether from someone who does not show up for us with integrity, by consistently failing to do what they say they will do.

The “givers gain” slogan of a business networking group to which I belonged, designed to inspire group members to get referrals for one another, may sound inspiring.

Yet, it has been my experience that innately generous people do not need to be told to give. Rather, some of us (women in particular who have been conditioned in early life to consistently put others’ needs ahead of their own) are fine-tuning our discernment skills and choosing more balanced relationships. We also are searching for the right balance in the ways we give.

To give to get back lacks authenticity, as it has a built-in expectation that operates like an ultimatum. The underpinnings of the “I’ll scratch your back, if you scratch mine” mentality feels more like a business deal than a genuinely caring relationship where the scales of who does what for whom often fluctuate.

Yet, if we give too much of ourselves without being replenished by those with whom we share, we can end up feeling burned out, exhausted and resentful—or worse, used.

Choosing to surround ourselves with people of character, which often takes time upfront to discern, is one of the best ways to ensure we will be met halfway in mutually beneficial relationships. The attached list of six character traits to look for in a man from author Barbara DeAngelis could easily apply to both genders (Six Important Character Traits).

Living on a two-way street of give and take also requires we consistently fill ourselves up so we come to others in our fullness and integrity, without ulterior motives. Allowing ourselves to receive the gifts of another is one more essential ingredient to experiencing more mutually balanced relationships.


1. I allow myself to give and receive from integrity.

2. I allow myself to discern the character of those with whom I associate.

The series of fountains in Beth Shedd’s photo remind us of the balance between replenishing ourselves and sharing our gifts. We must be filled with what we wish to share, and remain open to receiving genuine care from another.

 WRITING SERVICES OFFERED:  Based on 30 years of journalism and PR expertise, Gail is frequently asked to write bios, new releases, website  content and blog copy for her coaching clients.  She is now offering these services on a consulting basis to the public.  If you would like help with any of your writing needs, contact Gail at 978-887-1911 or email her at gailjones@claimyourworthiness.com


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  • Gus rowe says:

    Hi Gail,

    This piece really resonated with me! For years, going back to childhood, I’ve always been the “trusting” sort, thinking people have basically good intentions. This trait, while it’s served me very well for the most part, has risen up and bit me more than I care to mention. Suffice it to say that “giving” and “trusting” people like ourselves are sometimes taken advantage of by others. Getting burned in instances like that leaves a bad taste, however, I won’t change who I am. As a result, as long as we “stick to our guns”, we attract those who operate on the same level as we do. Perhaps that’s one reason why you and I discovered one another. The universe has a funny habit of working that way.

    In addition, and in relation to your topic, I’m reminded of the 100/0 principle. Perhaps you’ve heard of it. If so, I won’t bore you with what you already know.

    Thank you again, great article!


    • Gail says:


      Thank you for taking the time to write such a thoughtful and honest reply. It’s sometimes hard for those of us who help others for a living to admit our own vulnerabilities, and share the times we, too, have been hurt. Yet, I know that the clients and readers who most appreciate my work value that I am often “in the trenches” with them, maneuvering through life challenges. It is that level of authenticity that our high tech world based on quick sound bites is craving (and missing). So, I am most grateful, that you, who inspires so many others also through the written word, can admit to also being taken advantage of, and still remain committed to being the giver that you are–simply for believing in the goodness of others and being so trusting. Many blessings to you. Gail

  • ELLEN says:

    A new client who, like you, has a trusting nature, recently shared a story with me about a business colleague who had betrayed her terribly, effectively putting a great part of her business on hold as she sought a remedy. While she welled up in relaying the story, she nonetheless also went on to talk about ways to share her gift (she is an artist), demonstrating even in her pain, her natural instinct for giving. I will share your post with her in hopes that your belief tips may help her.

    • Gail says:


      I thank you for your kindness in sharing your client’s story–particularly her courage to move forward in sharing her gifts despite the hurt. We stay in our power when we honor our nature. I wouldn’t want to shift into an opposite way of being in reaction to another’s insensitivity and become a withholding, selfish person. It’s all about finding the right balance, and listening perhaps more carefully to our gut instincts about a person or waiting and observing a while longer to see if someone earns our trust.. Watching for consistency–where someone’s actions match their words–is one way to gauge trust. Gail

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