By Louise Morganti Kaelin
Most of us grow up strongly influenced by the concept that
'It is better to give than to receive'. For many of us,
it becomes more than a nice sentiment, but a way of being.
We take it to heart so much that we interpret it literally,
and that's where we often get ourselves into trouble!
That's often the problem with maxims. They're effective
because they're short and to the point. However, it's
assumed that the entire context and meaning is understood.
For example, 'It's better to give than to receive'
assumes that we understand that the balance of life, the
joy of it, is in giving AND receiving. Many people need
reminding that there is joy in both, but that the greater
joy is in giving. It could be considered a mini-sermon to
those that believe 'Take care of yourself' means life is
about them, that the universe and everything in it was
created to satisfy their every whim. To me, 'Take care of
yourself' means making sure that your needs are given the
same importance as everyone else's.
Even when we initially understand the original intent of a
message, years of constant repetition tends to make us
forget. Using our own experience and predisposition to
guide us, we start creating our own context. For example,
'It's better to give than to receive' could start
meaning we should only give and never receive. This creates
a whole series of life problems. I suspect that many people
who interpret giving in this way find it difficult to
succeed in business because they have trouble charging the
correct price and end up giving product or service away.
These are usually the same people who would never consider
taking anything from someone else without paying full
Individuals who take this to the extreme also believe
'Giving, goood. Receiving, baaaad.' This now adds an
element of judgment, not necessarily of other people's
receiving (they do need someone to give to), but certainly
of themselves. With a belief like that, taking or receiving
of any kind, even their 'fair share', creates an
uncomfortable state of being. Receiving for them means they
are 'out of integrity' where 'being in integrity' means
your actions match your words match your beliefs. They are
usually the first ones to offer aid, time, money, even
their seat on a bus. It's just more comfortable to unload
whatever they have received at the earliest opportunity and
it is almost painful for them if they have something and
someone around them is going without.
There are even deeper issues around giving-ness for many
people. Although 'chronic' givers usually say they don't
want anything in return, the truth is they are deeply hurt
when nothing is offered. They begin to feel used and
abused. Resentments begin to pile up until one day there is
a massive explosion. Of course, the guilt one feels after
such an explosion often results in giving even more in an
attempt to make up for the outburst. And it's not just
guilt for the explosion itself, but for the very fact that
they wanted something in the first place. Very often, there
are major issues around self-esteem and deservingness
As individuals gain the awareness that life is also about
receiving, they usually begin the process of healing. An
issue that often surfaces at this point deals with their
self-identity. Giving is so much a part of their nature
that, when they first open themselves to the prospect of
receiving, they feel that they have to make a choice. It
appears that the only way to change their behavior is to
stop doing what they are doing, to stop giving. But they
like helping others, they prefer their loving and giving
nature, it's who they ARE.
The solution, of course, is that they don't have to stop
being who they are, they don't have to stop giving. They
just have to allow themselves to start receiving!
One way to help make this shift is to stop thinking of
yourself as a giver and to start thinking of yourself as
being generous. These may appear the same at first, but
there are some considerable differences between the two.
First, instead of saying 'I am a giver' we say 'I am
generous'. Being a giver (like any role we have in life)
implies certain responsibilities and rules. It tends to
restrict us in how we think about ourselves and often
forces us to give way past the point where it is healthy.
Being generous implies that we are a person who is able to
share what we have. That there is plenty for me and you can
have some too.
Giving can imply that there isn't enough to go around.
Being generous comes from a place of abundance. You've all
heard (and can relate to, I'm sure) the expression 'Give
til it hurts.' To immediately feel the difference between
the two concepts, try saying 'Be generous til it hurts.'
I'm sure you have the same reaction that I do. It doesn't
quite compute. It's an oxymoron and my face scrunches up as
I try to put these words together. [Ok, it's not
attractive, but it's how I know that my brain is working
Giving feels good, but being generous feels joyful. Giving
often feels like a 'should', while generosity is a gift
from the heart. Giving is a 'doing' while generosity is a
'being'. Giving is an action and generosity a trait.
Giving seems to imply scarcity while generosity implies
reserves. Giving is often about you while generosity shifts
the focus to the receiver. Giving can often have strings,
but generosity feels unconditional. Giving is one way,
while generosity encompasses receiving as well. I'm sure
you will come up with many more distinctions as you start
thinking about this and applying it to your own life.
I have been 'trying on' this concept for a few weeks now.
I can only say that I feel a lightness that I haven't felt
for a long time. As I write this, I am realizing that
before this shift, giving felt like a compulsion. But being
generous of spirit is a choice that I make freely, a gift
from my heart that leaves me feeling whole.
See Also: Avoid
a Life of Regrets With Your Yes List
Too many times we say yes to others
when we should say no. At the same time we continue
to tell ourselves no when we need to say yes.