Equal Exchange

Today my thoughts have been rambling and I thought I’d write a little bit about friendship. I’ve learned a lot about the subject in the past year or so, in large part through my own mistakes. My biggest mistake has perhaps been my unyielding sense of fairness. Since the time I was a little boy, I’ve had this idea that everything should be fair and just and even. Of course, that’s a silly idea. If everything was fair than most humans would be dead for their crimes. No one would ever love anyone else. A fair world would be dreary and dismal and not worth living in. Indeed, it would be absolutely deadly to live in. But even so, I’ve always had this persistent feeling that things ought to be fair. And even as I was realizing that a fair world would be an abomination, I still clung to the idea that friendships, at least, must always be fair and if they aren’t that’s indicative of a lack of love on one side or the other. I had this certainty that friendship was about equal exchange. Love would be equally exchanged; favors would be equally exchanged; assistance would be equally exchanged. I would comfort you and you would comfort me. I would help you write a story and you would help me write one. You would show me something that brightened my world, and I would pay you back with something to brighten yours. That seems well and good and logical. But it is wrong.


Friendship, like most of the best things in this world, is illogical. It has nothing to do with equal exchange or with how much anyone can get out of it. The relationship described above is not friendship, but business. In business the terms must be fair to both sides or it would not be good business. One side or the other would go bankrupt. But in friendship, both sides must go bankrupt. Friendship is about giving gifts to each other, gifts of love, compassion, help, kindness, time. And the essence of a gift is that it is given without asking for anything in return. It is not wrong to hope that a friend might give you as much thought as you give her, or to hope that he might buy you a meal in exchange for helping him move something. But to expect these things out of some dark idea that all friendship should be fair is childish and silly, even selfish. And selfish friendship is not really friendship at all, but business.


The objection that my own mind raises to this is always “but if my friend loved me as much as I love her, then she would give back the same that I give in!” Maybe that is so, but it is equally likely that everyone shows love in a different way and what seems like love to one person won’t always seem the same to another. At any rate it is a selfish thought. Perfect love asks for nothing in return. Each one loves to the best of his ability, and if that does not manifest as an equal exchange than it does not make the love less perfect or important. Indeed, it only makes it more perfect, for love that can never be fully returned or repaid is the most holy kind.


Something I’ve been seeing as time goes by. I fully admit to being a bit hypocritical about this, but hopefully I’m learning and getting better. On another note, this blog has become so much more earnest than I originally intended it to be…


Love and peace!


~ Jared


3 thoughts on “Equal Exchange

  1. Good post! ^.^ My pastor is talking about this concept, only in the context of marriage. (I can’t really relate to that, but, well, you know what’s going on, and it rather makes me want to present this concept over and over again until *someone* gets it.) I fear I’ve been much the same way in terms of critiquing–especially on the forum. I feel like if I give my fair share of critiquing, then other people will finally critique something of mine. While I suppose critiquing is a bit of a business partnership, depending on how you’re doing it, it should really be about selfless giving as well.

  2. I just found this while flipping through google reader for the first time in like… eight months :P I really like this post. The whole fairness in friendship thing is something I believed for a long time and it ended up in a lot of disappointment and bitterness. So it’s cool to read this.

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