Do you keep a scorecard on your relationships? Not an actual tally, but perhaps a mental note about how much you've given versus how much you've received? How much you've poured into someone and how much good you saw come from your efforts? Have you ever planted a hydrangea in your neighbor's yard and hoped it grew in yours? Isn't it the same thing?
Because I'm not referring to financial gifts although money would be an easy thing to reconcile. I'm suggesting keeping score on the amount of time you spent on a relationship, the encouragement you gave, unconditional loving support and listening without judging. Or what about all the tiny, thoughtful gestures you remembered like a birthday, or grabbing a coffee on the way in to work because your coworker had a tough day ahead of them, or preparing a meal for family with a sick parent? Did you expect to be able to call in that lasagna at a later date?
I had someone tell me that she considered these things relationship banks. You make deposits into the various people in your life, like friends, your spouse, coworkers, boss, relatives, neighbors or church members and hope that by making these deposits, (lots of them in fact) you've filled up each account with enough goodwill to be able to draw on it when you need it.
Not everyone feels this way and others might not be able to fully articulate their feelings on this or how they rationalize the give and take, but I think most everyone has felt cheated by a relationship bank. Have you ever heard someone say, "After all I've done for them, this is the thanks I get?" or better yet, "I've always been there for them and I thought I could count on them to be there for me." The basic principal is that one person gave to a relationship who wasn't able to withdraw a portion of what they thought the account had in it.
What if it's the other way around? What if you are blessed to be surrounded by people who give you far more than you could ever give back to them? The dear ones in your life who without fail, good times and bad never left you? Thinking of the person who wraps a blanket around your shoulders when you're crying so hard, it sounds like a scream. Or when you've been sick for hours and they place a damp rag on your forehead and leave long enough to clean up wretched mess in the bathroom? When you're so lost and broken from the death of a parent they drive all night to sit with you the next day? You just can't possibly fill up those accounts can you?
Are we judging the value of the relationship based on one's contribution and how much return on investment they received? Mother Theresa said, "If you judge people, you have no time to love them." But we're not Mother Theresa are we? It's hard to imagine her saying something like, "You know, the poor really need to be more grateful and I think they should do something for me." It's a ludicrous notion but it demonstrates the fundamental problem with keeping tally or mental banks.
Giving, no matter what kind of giving it is; won't match up exactly to the person who is receiving it. The return blessing may sprout up somewhere you may never see or know. Remember the image about planting the flower in your neighbors yard and hoping it blooms in yours?
Let's say a friend lost her job and your gift to her is watching her children while she's goes to a job interview. The return may be that her children remember someone who helped their mother during a tough time they couldn't fully understand. They recognized the kindness anyway. The impact or blessing may be when those children reach adulthood and they perform a similar gesture. If it the tally marks were equal then that friend would need to watch your kids when you interview for a job.
Maybe you are really great at being a cheerleader. Your gift is encouraging others. People just feel better when they hear your encouraging words and feel your positive energy. You believe in them! They can do it! You tell them to follow their heart and chase their dreams and you'll watch them with tears in your eyes and clap like crazy because you are so proud of them! You may never get the same level of encouragment from them when you have an accomplishment. You might instinctively run back to them expecting the same enthusiasm but instead you witness a heart monitor flatline. I've experienced it myself, everyone has. Where you go to the people you cheered looking for some of that feel good kick-back. It's not always there is it? But the good news is that your blessing was received! The way they choose to pass it on is up to them. You may never know how the person you encouraged might reach down and lift up someone just beginning their climb.
Here's what I've learned and I still don't grasp it completely, but I'll simplify it. Jesus's reward is far better than the tally marks and banks from other people. The moment we try to count up all these imaginary banks we've created, we have ultimately taken our eyes off of Him. If we seek to please Him instead of others, then we can never go wrong. We might not get the verbal approval or the emotional kick-back support we were expecting from each other, but He sees all the good we do and every time we are slighted. If we ball up and throw away our scorecard, He'll hold on to His copy. And the reward from Him will be better than any accolades or atta-boys or emotional support we receive on this earth.
Seeds to Share:
Galatians 1:10 - I'm not trying to win the approval of people but of God. If pleasing people were my goal, I would not be Christ's servant.
Colossians 3:23-24 - Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.