Reciprocity and Respect
The Law of Reciprocity is a basic principle that we can relate to our spirituality, to our groups, to our social lives, and even to our jobs, careers, and businesses. The basic tenet of reciprocity is give and take. When you do something nice for someone else, they’re likely to do something nice for you. If you only take and don’t give back, folks are likely to stop giving to you. If you give too much and never get back, you’re likely to feel taken advantage of. It’s all about respect and balanced relationships. This can apply to your relationships with the gods and goddesses, with your guides and totems, with the people in your respective group or coven, with your friends and family, and with your co-workers, bosses, and clients. Reciprocity can be applied to material things like gifts. It can be applied to non-material things like your time, attention, and how you communicate. Reciprocity is about building relationships.
In our spirituality, this means paying attention to our patrons and guides. When Pagans “pray”, we often make offerings and libations. Our prayers often take the form of rituals – whether simple and solitary or complex and involving many others in our chosen spiritual community. We might leave milk and honey for the Fey. We might offer wine or mead to the deities. We might burn a candle or incense to take our prayers to the heavens. We might make an altar and fill it with symbolic items to build our connection between the appropriate patrons or energies. We often share food and drink with the deities and amongst ourselves with blots and feasts further building our spiritual and community relationships. Pagans often say “A gift for a gift” or “A boon for a boon.” Pagans generally don’t expect free handouts from the gods and goddesses. Instead we offer something in return, an offering, our devotion, or sometimes even a vow of some kind.
Reciprocity also applies to our communities, though this is an area that many Pagans need to work on. How often do we participate in or give back to our Pagan communities? How many of us are content to be “solitaries” only coming out of our shells periodically to buy something from our local Pagan shops or to attend only the big gatherings and rituals? Do we even buy from our local Pagan shops or do we order all our supplies online? Do we volunteer to help at the gatherings and rituals or do we just take what is offered? In our Pagan groups, are we a leader or a go-to person? Do we take responsibility or do we sit back and let others do all the work? Do we make contributions monetary or otherwise to Pagan causes or to other causes that are dear to our hearts? Do we give positive feedback to Pagan businesses, groups, and events or do we only give negative feedback when something is wrong? Do we share your esoteric knowledge and experiences with others or do we keep it to ourselves? How you answered these questions will let you know how reciprocal you are and whether you need to do better.
Reciprocity also applies to our relationships with friends and family, as well as our smaller groups and covens. One of my pet peeves in this internet age is the number of people who have forgotten how to really communicate. Sure we post cat videos and status updates to our Facebook feeds, but how often do we really engage with each other. I have a number of friends who never or rarely reply to messages online, or by phone or text for that matter. I’m Pagan not telepathic. I don’t know if my message (sometimes multiple messages) got lost in their feed, whether they’ve got everything under control, or whether they’re ignoring me. With some folks, I feel like I’m talking to a wall both literally and figuratively. I really do need to know if you’re bringing the food to our next gathering, if you’re meeting me at my house or at Starbucks, or if you’re picking Aunt Edna up from her appointment. My dozen or so messages to you across Facebook, text, and voicemail weren’t because I had nothing better to do with my time, but because I really need to know. The last time I saw you in person you implied you would, but that was over a month ago. If you can’t confirm, I need to make other arrangements. Reciprocity is taking responsibility for our communications and taking our responsibilities to others seriously because we’d want others to do the same for us. Communication, respect, and taking responsibility are all key aspects of reciprocity regardless of whether we are dealing with divine entities or with our mundane family and friends.
These same concepts can help us in our jobs and businesses. Do we do our fair share? Do we put off all our work on everyone else? Or are we the ones doing more than our fair share while others slack off? Do we treat our customers right? Do we treat them like someone with expendable money to buy stuff or do we honestly try to provide them a product or service to resolve their need or a want? Are we open to communication, comments, and suggestions?
Reciprocity is closely related to karma though perhaps it’s a little more personal than that. What you put out comes back to you. What comes around goes around. When you treat others well and try to help them, they’re inclined to do the same for you.
Are your spiritual and your mundane relationships reciprocal? If not, what can you do to make them better?