Quid Pro Quo – Oh, No!

Posted by David

“Life is quid pro quo.” Is that really the way life is? I hope not. Most people take life to be that way. They expect outwardly and inwardly that if they do their part, they will get the other side of reciprocation. Is life just a series of subtle and not-so-subtle contractual engagements? I hope that’s not the case.

Here are some types of quid pro quo thinking:

“I’ll smile and be polite, then…”

“If I give her the job…

“If I take care of her kid this afternoon…”

“If I marry him…”

“God, if I believe in you…”

Expectations such as these are a setup for disaster, because life is not quid pro quo. Life isn’t so mechanistic, at least not the life I know. If it was, there would be no hope, no grace, no joy, no love. We’d be bound in slavery as Quid-Pro-Quobots.

We have a self-determination that allows us to choose and ask and grant and love. With that comes responsibility. My three-year old boy and I were talking about responsibility recently. And he was wondering if Magpie our cat was able to be irresponsible. He had noticed that she would get on the table and clearly she knew that she wasn’t allowed to. As with many of his deeper questions, I had to think about how to respond. I explained that cats aren’t able to be responsible, but that Magpie still isn’t allowed to get on the table. I probably hedged a bit in my explanation. Then he went on to ask about other animals and whether or not those animals were capable of being responsible or irresponsible. Neither of us were completely satisfied with the conversation. Even so, I still hold that animals don’t have the ability to be responsible, yet we do. We make willful choices and that characteristic places us under an umbrella of Justice: God’s justice, that is.

God’s justice is perfect, but that doesn’t mean life is an eye for an eye, or if I rub your back you will rub mine. Relationships aren’t so simple. God’s relationship with us isn’t that simple. If relationships were, where would the friendship be? Friendships aren’t so rote. But isn’t that the contract we see established with most relationships. Those relationships are doomed to fail or become drudgery. True friendships don’t work that way. They don’t care what the other has done for them recently. They act in love. True friendships are much more like water flowing in a river than life living under the bondage of quid pro quo.

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Filed under Christianity, Love, philosophy

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