Delphic Maxim 55 - Give Back What You Have Received

Λαβων αποδος

Approximate transliterationLavon Apodos
Typical translationGive Back What You Have Received

A version of this is commonly said as "give something back," usually implying to give something back to the community. I think this Maxim means even more than that.

If you would ever ask someone for help, you should be willing to help that person if he/she asked you to do the same. Also, because the cycle has to start somewhere, you should be willing to help those in need, even if you never expect to see that person again.

Of course, you don't want to overstep boundaries or put yourself in danger. There are a few different categories of people in your life. Who these people are to you changes expectations.



This is the most important all-encompassing reciprocal trait there is. It's so important, in fact, that the word "respect" appears in four Maxims (4, 42, 126, and 129). Harmony can only exist in a community of mutual respect. Of course, the only people worthy of respect are those who respect others. You don't want to respect those who trample on you.

Because this is so prevalent in the Delphic Maxims, I'll go more in depth when the dice tell me to.


Tangible Gifts

Eris Giving Golden Apple
Eris Giving Golden Apple
Give your fairest friend a golden apple today!

I'm a big proponent of "if I'm not going to use it, someone else should have it." I don't want good things to be wasted if possible. When we moved, we wanted to take as little furniture as we could. It makes a generally tedious, arduous day much faster, easier, and cheaper, not including all the time, money, and effort saved in packing and unpacking.

So, we offered nearly everything we had to our friends for free. Anything not taken was:

Intangible Gifts

Ross Gellar - Pivot
Ross Gellar - Pivot
Helping someone move

Doing favors for friends are how most friendly relationships become stronger. Knowing that you can count on somebody for help when you need it is a valuable trait.

As long as you have friends, it's almost a guarantee in life that someone is going to ask you to help them move. You know it'll be a pain, but if multiple people work together, it's really not that bad.

Of course, when it's your turn to move, your friends will probably help you, even if its just out of a feeling of obligation. I've moved three times after college, two of which were in one year. My girlfriend moved a couple of times as well before she moved in with me. To remain as people who aren't considered terrible friends, we pretty much can never say no to helping our friends move. They helped us; it's only right to help them, too.


A Lannister Always Pays His Debts
A Lannister Always Pays His Debts

Although most people immediately think of money, my experience has been mostly in lending and borrowing DVDs, books, and tools. Of course, that's probably because we all have credit cards. We owe the bank, not each other. For us, lending money only happens if we want to go to an event that is cash-only. In that case, none of us can do it anyway.

My girlfriend buys a lot of DVDs of TV shows. So, if we tell somebody about e.g. Dexter, that person may want to watch it, too. The problem is that they are six (seven?) seasons behind. We lend them the DVDs. They watch the DVDs to catch up. The next season, the friend can come over and watch it every week with the rest of us at our weekly Dexter "party." If the friend doesn't really like the show, now he/she knows that without wasting a ton of money. Everyone wins.



2π Tip
2π Tip

I hate the custom of tipping a waiter at a restaurant. When I worked in a restaurant, minimum wage in New Jersey was $5.25/hr, but waiters made $2.13/hr. Tips are not "extra;" they are the person's wages. I always felt that a waiter should make as much money as others. A person's base wages shouldn't rely on the generosity of others, especially in NJ.

I can rant for days about the lack of respect I've seen people give to waiters. If you want to know if a person is genuinely nice or that person is only being nice to _you_, go to dinner together and look at how the waiter is treated.

In any case, if someone goes above and beyond for you, you should repay that favor.

My girlfriend and I went to the opening of a new restaurant. Being new in a prime location, is was packed, and the kitchen was backed up and the wait staff was less than it needed to be. Our waiter was running all over the place trying to keep people happy. We were content with what we had and ate slowly to give the kitchen more time, but I noticed other people giving the waiters a hard time.

When we ordered desert, it came out of the kitchen. We ate a little faster than before because there was no other course we would have to wait for.

Our waiter came over later with another desert, apologizing for how long it took and he's sorry that it hasn't arrived yet. He had the desert taken off the bill and got us gift cards so we would come back. He explained that we were patient all night with the restaurant, so this was his way of saying thank you.

We said that we actually already got our desert and ate it, but thank you anyway. He wrapped it for us to take with us. We took it to our friends' place, and we shared it with them.

Now, our $73 bill had just become $57, a free desert (a desert trio, actually), and we got two gift cards good for a free appetizer each. This was the only time in recent history that I actually had cash on me. I gave him $80 and walked out before he could come back with change, thinking it was a mistake.

We were being nice. It's in our nature, so we didn't think anything of it. He noticed and reciprocated, so I gave a little extra. (According to some friends I have who would give $10, I gave too much. It's 2.3x as much as they would have given.) In the end, we got a lot, and the bill, even including tip, was still extremely reduced.

Waiting Cooks
Waiting Cooks
It's also just a good idea to be nice to those who handle your food.


Give Something Back
Give Something Back

This is what most people refer to when they say they "want to give something back." My girlfriend actually mentioned the term "pay it forward" recently, which I think would apply here. However, that's more explicitly covered in Delphic Maxim 127, so I'll defer everything until then.

Also, I never really got attached to a place enough to think this yet. Maybe I will in the future. However, I do live in New Jersey, where we are taught from a young age to hate each other. Anyone acting nice is weird and should be avoided. People actively try to dodge talking the people they live near. It's the most densely populated state, so everybody is stacked on top of one another. Especially near Manhattan, there's no such thing as an open area, just traffic.

It makes me a little cranky, too, I suppose.


Hoboken Clothing Drop Box
Hoboken Clothing Drop Box

This also goes along the lines of "if I'm not using it, someone else can." Not everyone has the time or motivation to volunteer, and not everyone can afford to donate money. You can donate old clothes or furniture. Even putting something out for free on Craigslist is kind of a donation.



Hellenic Offering by Pillars
Hellenic Offering by Pillars

It's hard to ignore divine reciprocity when writing about giving back what you receive. A lot of religion is based on thanking [insert deity of your choice] for what he/she/they have provided to you. At meals, that could take the form of giving up the first bite of the meal, saying grace, eating little, or abiding by a specific diet.

If you take a tour bus though e.g. Chicago, remember that your tour guide just put on a 4-hour one-man show; throw a few bucks his way for Apollon. Did you hike down the Appalachian Trail without getting mauled by a bear? How much are you really losing if you pour some of your water out to Artemis?



If my text editor is correct, then I'm already over 1500 words in this article. I should probably stop before I start getting too ranty. Plus, it's already 2:00AM.

I could go on. I struggled for meaningful examples of envy last week, but I couldn't think of many times where I was actually envious. I can think of way too many times for one article of the times I tried to give something back. I suppose that's a good thing. Also, that humble-brag was completely unintentional.

Other examples of people would include parents and siblings, extended family, significant others, and your children. All are extremely personal to each individual, and some I can't even speak for myself. Nevertheless, I'm not enough of an asshole to tell you how I believe you should behave with your family. I can only write of how I try to behave with others, and my relationship with my family isn't going to translate in any meaningful way to strangers on the Internet.

So, at almost seven manuscript pages, I'll step off my soapbox and say good night.