When People Don’t Reciprocate

I find that the Lord is always teaching us. If we posture ourselves with an open heart and a listening ear, we discover that our everyday life is his classroom. Ordinary decisions, conversations, and experiences are means by which he is schooling us. If we’ll give him our ear, we’ll hear him speaking truth in the day to day.

The truth he speaks sheds light on what is going on around us. More importantly, it makes clear what is going on inside us. And it invites us to be freer than we were before, to live from the newfound insight our Teacher has unveiled.

Lately, I find myself being schooled in this: The grace I have to encourage people who do not encourage me back. The power of giving in the face of non-response.  You probably aren’t bursting into wild cheers upon reading this.

And rest assured, you won’t be when you have opportunity to put action to it, either. When you’re least in the mood, here it will come: The family member who consistently shows a lack of interest in your life wants to tell you about his, and genuine response is invited in return. The dear friend who is fully aware of your passion and risk-taking remains silent for years, yet gladly accepts your affirmation of her pursuits. And let’s get real, people: that friend you are forever responding to on social media who can’t even muster a single “like” from her end.

When we encourage from our end, only to be met by nothingness on their end, it stings. It’s noticeable. It feels cold. And unsafe.

These are valid assessments. We notice the void because there is a knowing, deep in our hearts, that relationships are supposed to be better than this. Shouldn’t we be building one another up? Isn’t it natural for people, particularly those in Christ, to reciprocate encouragement? Aren’t we all on the same team here?

The silence has a reason. Often, the withholding is rooted in a competitive, jealous spirit. And sometimes, people are simply in too deep a pit to see beyond it to others. You are aware that there likely are hidden factors playing into people’s non-response, but still you feel it. And at times, the lopsidedness of give-and-take is glaring.


Into this glaring discrepancy steps the Master Teacher:

I am your overflowing well of encouragement, he says.

My waters never run dry (Revelation 22:17).

If you’ll partake of them, there will be no need for human reciprocity (John 4:14).

I want you to brim over and spill my goodness wherever you go (John 7:38).

Don’t hold back, and don’t allow their silence to stop you (Romans 8:31).

Never confuse human response with my endless well (John 4:13).

I am your exceedingly great reward.

Friends, we carry his resurrection power in order to give it away. He imparts it to us so we can release it. So we can spread his goodness like wildfire, blazing a trail of encouragement and life wherever our feet walk.

unreciprocated encouragement Photo by S. Michaels

We release his power into the lives around us when we build others up. When we celebrate the gift of God in them. When we rejoice with them. When we give love generously. When we offer that genuine response to the disinterested family member. When we affirm that silent friend’s pursuits. When we “like” the post simply because we really do like it, not because the “poster” reciprocates.

His resurrection power enables us to love and encourage others unto Him. We learn to see the Lord himself as the recipient of our generous, uninhibited love.

When we speak life and kindness over others, even if they remain non-responsive, our acts of encouragement are seeds sown into fertile ground. Seeds sown unto the Lord himself, never unto people.

And he is Lord of the harvest. He sees our wild sowing. He delights in our unfettered generosity. And he will cause those seeds to grow. Our harvest is guaranteed.

“Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” (Galations 6:9) And the more seed we scatter, the greater the harvest. “He who sows generously will also reap generously.” (II Corinthians 9:6)

Not only is our unrestrained encouragement a seed, but it is also a gateway to Christ-likeness. It is one of the truest embodiments of who he is: the extravagant offer of unmerited love. And not just a one-time offer – but an ongoing bestowal of goodness that never withdraws. Never holds back based on lack of response. Never calibrates generosity according to repayment.

This is who he is. And it’s who he’s made us to be.

Withholding empties us. But in giving love away unbridled, we ourselves are made fuller by filling others. That’s the glorious mystery of life in his Kingdom.

Thank you, Father, for giving us hearts that find their prize in You, that love others generously and don’t withhold encouragement!


*Photo by S. Michaels

1 Comments on “When People Don’t Reciprocate”

  1. Thanks so much for this encouraging post. I’ve encountered similar. It seems that so many of my relationships are one-sided with little reciprocity. When you give and give, but rarely receive back, it is discouraging. And while God is the source of our hope and power, we do need people too. God created us for community and relationships. But as you emphasize if we keep looking to people for fulfillment, instead of God, we are placing our hope in the wrong thing.


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