Sunday, July 15, 2007


I first heard this word a couple of years ago when I was talking to a colleague about Australian Aboriginal culture and philosophy. The word can be a bit of a tongue-twister (though perhaps that's just me) but the meaning behind it fascinated me. I also found out, after some research, that although I hadn't heard this particular term before, the concept was not new (to me) and is often the backbone behind most religions. It seems that, at times, our major religions and their followers have forgotten this fundamental tenet.

What it means, in a most basic sense, is "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and "pay it back". That is, if someone does you a service or gives you a gift - tangible or intangible, then that "giving" should be returned. It makes perfect sense and I try to follow this philosophy to my utmost.

You may find the thought rather simple. The best ones often are. But imagine if everyone paid back a kindness with a kindness, respect with respect, service with service, how much happier we would be as a whole society. Levels of bitterness would drop and caring would rise. Ignorance would recede and learning come forth. The world's population needs reciprocity. You, dear Reader, need it. I need it.

Here are a few quotes from various religions (and via Wikipedia) that express their philosophy of reciprocity.

 "Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the LORD." — Torah Leviticus 19:18
 "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." — Jesus (c. 5 B.C.E. - C.E. 32 ) in the Gospels, Matthew 7:12, Matthew 22:39, Luke 6:31, Luke 10:27
 "When an alien lives with you in your land, do not mistreat him. The alien living with you must be treated as one of your native-born. Love him as yourself, for you were aliens in Egypt. I am the LORD your God." — Torah Leviticus 19:33-34
 "This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others what you would not have them do unto you." — Mahabharata (5:15:17) (c. 500 B.C.E.)
 "What you do not wish upon yourself, extend not to others." — Confucius (ca. 551 - 479 B.C.E.)
 "What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow man." — Hillel (ca. 50 B.C.E. - C.E. 10)
 "None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." — Muhammad (c. C.E. 571 - 632), Hadith 13 of al-Nawawi's Forty Hadith.

I'm not sure I like the wording of all the above, but I'm not a big fan of dogma at any time. I came to my understanding of reciprocity without the benefit of religious learning as I'm sure many of us do. After all, it's so simple and I think it's simple because it's a human instinct - too often warped by ignorance and wrong-learning - but an instinct nevertheless. Perhaps I'm naïve - nothing wrong with a little bit of naivety.

Yes, there are varying interpretations of this concept, but let's not over-analyse it. That's a cop-out. If someone does something for you then you should do something for them. Not exactly the same thing, but something, even if it's as easy as a well-meant and sincere thank-you.


PS: If you're interested in performing some random acts of kindness then the Dare To Be An Angel website has lots of links for just this sort of thing.

PPS. The boomerang image is from the cover of a book entitled, Boomerang. For more information visit the Singapore Institute of Management.


WalksFarWoman said...

Superb post TrishA - it endorses the simple philosophy that the world can only be changed by individuals as opposed to entire populations.

This is probably why the positive nature of Blogging is so successful, we can't survive if we simply write and expect people to read, we have to reciprocate in order to generate the respect that ultimately turns full circle.

Thanks again TrishA - have you been dancing yet? :)

Beginnings, Middle and Ends said...

thank you for the comment. Reciprocity is something I've wanted to talk about for awhile and what better forum than my own blog.

My philosophies are simple: you help when you can help, you do when and what you can do and everything else flows on from that.

Yes, I have been dancing, actually. I watched "Take the Lead" with my daughters and couldn't resist getting up for a quick turn around the room. :^)


Crabby McSlacker said...

I always find it interesting how many people look to their religious texts to find reasons to condemn others, rather than finding reasons to be generous and compassionate to others!

Nice post and a good reminder to look for opportunities to help those who help us, as well as those less fortunate.

Marijke Durning said...

Very much the "what goes around comes around" concept, one I like to believe in. Sometimes we may not see the results of kind or good acts ourselves, but someone else may benefit.

I found your blog through Dawn's visitors. Very nice. I'll be back. :-)

Beginnings, Middle and Ends said...

Thanks for visiting Marijke and Crabby.

Jackal said...

Indeed - so simple, yet so unpracticed.