All benefits must be mutual.

Dear Therese,

A friend and I have been doing things together twice a week for almost ten years.  We enjoy our time together and have many things in common, but that’s not the problem.  My problem is that I always drive, because she doesn’t, and she has never once offered to pay me for gas.  Until recently that wasn’t an issue, because the places we like to go are in her area, but I am on a fixed income and would sure like to keep costs down for me, and there are things much closer to me that I could go to, instead of by her.  How do I tell her?

W.H. in Wisconsin

Dear W.H.,

The simple answer, W.H., is tell her exactly what you just told me!  You’ve given no indication that she is abusive or unreasonable, which probably means that she has likely fallen into the habit of letting you pay.  Is it possible that when this arrangement began you consistently told her it was your pleasure, or no problem, or you liked doing this?  Sweetie, if you don’t speak up, you will never know if there really is a problem!  It could be that she is very willing to pay and just doesn’t know circumstances have changed for you.

Your predicament is a microcosm of a much larger social problem, of course.  We are encouraged to give, but not told why.  The “why” is because this life isn’t about us, it is about how our lives touch and improve the lives others (put very simply, of course).  What we aren’t really told these days is that all benefits must be mutual.  The mutual ultimately boils down to the joy of giving, but being the human beings that we are, it often takes something a little more concrete to demonstrate mutuality.  For sure it means that one person can not take advantage of another.  When generosity is abused, the energy of the relationship changes, and we feel it.

Then comes the next predicament.  We are also told that we have to be nice.  We are encouraged to avoid conflict.  We are fearful that other people won’t like us.  None of these things are necessarily wrong, until they stop us from being true to ourselves.  When we stop being true to ourselves, W.H., we also stop giving from our joy, and our giving becomes tainted.

When our giving no longer comes from our joy, as is demonstrated in your case, it affects relationships.  Your friend, W.H., has no way of knowing that something has changed unless you tell her.  Chances are she suspects, by your behavior, or some subtle changes in you, but she can not really know until you tell her your truth.  I suggest you tell her very gently, but directly, that your circumstances have changed.  Don’t just stop doing things with her and go to places closer without giving her a chance to give back to you.  Who knows, she may have been hiding information from you about her finances or other things, and may wish to talk to you, too.  This one thing may actually open up a whole new avenue of communication between the two of you and move you two into a whole new level of mutual benefit.

We just never know where standing in our own truth, even in seemingly simple things, will take us!


(Therese Wilson is a published poet, and is the administrator of the global website at, which offers spiritual assistance from a team of Spiritual Helpers responding to every post from readers within 24 hours or less, and offers insight, suggestions, and companionship during moments of unbidden, unexpected, unwelcome change on the journey of life. She may be contacted at

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  • Marko

    Thank you for dealing with what is such a common problem. That is, of not communicating our true feelings in place of avoiding possible hurt to another.

    My personal solution, is to not to wait but communicate right away with grace & tact. The longer you wait the more awkward it may become.

    This may seem like a simple thing you are talking about here Therese, but it really goes deep into our society on many levels. So thank you for offering solutions to consider & use.


  • Therese


    I agree that it is no simple thing. The lack of communication about what we really feel is effecting all aspects of our lives. For instance…I am about to celebrate my 40th wedding anniversary. I am not only hitting that mile stone, I also happen to still adore the man! How is it that this is so, when others have ended up divorced? I am convinced it is because of communication. We have rarely had huge “event” moments in our lives. For the most part, we talk about things when the problem is still small enough to not have too much emotional charge.

    This same lack of communication is very evident in our jobs, in our friendships and in our government. It all seems to be very conditional these days…very dogmatic, with no give and take. If someone won’t dance the waltz, they will not even give the ChaCha a chance!

    Of course, as you state, Marko, communication must be done, as best as we can, with sensitivity and grace. But getting to that place is often a process, and unless we make the first step in that process, nothing is going to ever have a chance to grow into the beautiful thing it can be.


  • Marko

    Well amen to that! It really does all come down to communication. That is, good non violent conscious loving communication.

  • Erin/IAm

    Beautiful, Therese! Love the truth-telling method…it sooo works. <3

    I Am presently dealing with teen suicide…the occurrence is growing steadily & rapidly…everywhere. My observes also See this communication avoidance…and when there is, truth is little told. "How was school today?" answered with "Fine." or "Same sh*t, different day." is not truth seeking, nor truth telling. There is no understanding of mutual benefit…it seems uncomfortable to deal with the issues by both guardian & child.

    How often does a person truly mean their words when they ask "How are you?" It has become more of an extended greeting rather than an honest, purposeful question.

    And after an incident occurs in close proximity…seemingly a big surprise to all…I See those communication doors close even more. How strange, yes?

    But this is quite evident in the eyes & body expression of those who 'involve' themselves, post mortem…even the local schools refuse to acknowledge such event, which sooo does not support this elegant method of 'natural healing'…"First the word…" of knowledge, truth, prayers.

    I hope that W.H. heeds your advice…Blessed be to their enduring friendship.
    Wishing them Good Journey. <3

  • Therese

    I, obviously, agree Erin. I think that part of communication is putting ourselves into the position to have space for that communication. What do I mean by that?

    Well, there was a time when we had morning coffee with our neighbors. There was a time when we were home when our children came home from school. There was a time when we had dinner as a family. There was a time when we had meals and picnics with our neighbors, or simply sat on the front yard and talked with each other into the night. In too many cases, in too many parts of the world, this is not the case.

    Those of us who ask the question, “How are you today?”, and really want the answer, must also do simple things like look someone in the eye when we ask the question. Put an light hand on an arm or shoulder. Lean into the person slightly…let people know subtly or directly that we really are ready to hear the real answer.

    I do my best to even treat strangers this way…and I have strangers telling me things they have never told anyone else. It is so simple to do, and I sincerely hope we find the will to do these simple things.