As I think about the relationships in my life and the people who have come and gone, I can’t help but think about the feelings of indifference and reciprocation. I believe these two feelings reveal some of the strongest clues into any relationship.
The Nobel Peace Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel once wrote:
The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
Wiesel says that emotions such as anger and hate do not describe the opposite of love. Instead, the opposite of love is the absence of any emotion at all. Indifference is complete darkness. Indifference knows our deepest secrets and our deepest desires. Indifference abounds when reciprocity fails.
In a recent New York Times article appropriately titled “Do your friends actually like you?“, the author highlights several studies which consistently conclude that only about half of the people you believe to be your friend actually reciprocate the feeling. In other words, when you think your friendship is mutual, the odds your feeling is right is typically at best the flip of a coin.
It is important to note that reciprocation is not merely participation. It is something more: an act of generosity wherein one gives something of themselves because both parties recognize each other’s essential goodness. The adage “Never show up to a party empty handed.” comes to mind.