Life is a Quid Pro Quo

Posted by Mike

Linda and Barbara were talking about buying a gift for someone,Present (fun).pngand I interjected the comment, “Life is a quid pro quo.”  They were taking about relationships and the issue of giving and receiving was relevant to the context. What I meant was that in relationships we give something and we get something. In most cases we don’t do an accounting, but in general, I think that people tend to expect, consciously or unconsciously, to get back from others – in relationships – something roughly equivalent to what they give. It seems obvious. Isn’t everyone aware of this aspect of relationships? We all have known of people in relationships where it seems that one person is the primary giver and the other person is the receiver. Such relationships can certainly last a long time, but it’s likely that in most cases the giver develops some resentment. And the receiver develops a sense of entitlement, a specialness not justified by reality, but only by the character of the relationship. One can only give so long without receiving. For most people, the giving becomes burdensome; the giver can become resentful, angry, withdrawn, become isolated, feeling unloved. Of course, we’re talking about intangibles as well as tangibles – and I’m not saying one or the other is the most important. We’re talking about practical things like preparing meals and shopping, looking after and caring for and spending time with children, and about intangibles, like thoughtful and kind acts –  relieving someone of a simple task or a responsibility- affection, and generosity.

Why does it have to be a quid pro quo? I suspect that it has to do with the human animal. We humans, as much as we like to think we’re independent, are family/group/tribal animals. There’s no way we can survive alone – or perpetuate the species alone! To survive we must function in groups with others. Yes, we no Amerikanska folk, Nordisk familjebok.jpglonger live in tribal units with close contact and interaction with our tribal families like our aboriginal ancestors – and there’s no doubt in my mind that some losses have accrued to our corporate sensibilities as a result of this change – but to get along in the world and function in whatever group and society we find ourselves, we are interacting daily with multiple other persons and we are dependent on others in so many ways at every minute that we would be astounded if we really became aware of our dependence. For the group and for society as a whole, the process becomes an interdependence. Everyone is expected to share the load, to do his or her part. Obviously children, the sick or infirm, and the elderly must be done for at times, but in general the necessary demands of living are expected to be shared by all. Life is a quid pro quo.


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Filed under philosophy, Psychology

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