better to give than to receive." "Giving without
thought of return is the greatest good." "Give
'till it hurts."
are marvelous and wonderfully moral statements. Guidelines
which we have been taught that are rules of conduct to
(You knew that was coming.) what we have been taught about
giving is only half a truth. And it's causing a lot of
stress. Admittedly, there is some logic in these lessons.
And that is worth acknowledging.
children we often get hung up on receiving gifts and manage
to bypass the emotional content of the gift that speaks
of the feelings of the giver. So we're reminded over and
over by teachers, religious leaders, parents, social role
models and public charities that of the two options, giving
and receiving, the former has a greater value than the
always skeptical of things that require constant re-education,
however. As with goal-setting workshops for corporations
that must be presented repeatedly or the message is forgotten,
the concept of giving seems to demand constant attention.
Very few of us give enough, apparently, since the messages
are everywhere all the time. We're made to feel guilty
not just for not giving enough, but for receiving . .
sure, in my own case anyway, that as a child I needed
some reminding that my aunts and uncles were more important
than the gifts they brought on my birthday. But something
happened with this training. And it's happened to more
people than just myself.
me digress for just a moment. There are a couple of philosophic
points I'd like to make. Oriental philosophy has taught
us that everything in the universe requires balance. As
in the Yin and Yang. In the Zen experience this principle
is presented as "all is one" and is taught by
understanding that oneness comes from the composition
of seemingly conflicting elements. A beautiful example
that I was, uh, given many years ago is that of breathing.
It's foolish to say that breathing in is better than breathing
out since life is predicated on a perfect balance between
so it is with giving.
are made to feel guilty for receiving. Yet we continue
to receive. Guiltily. Embarrassed. Uncomfortably. All
in all, pretty poorly.
Gibran in "The Prophet" provides as his explanation
for giving, "All you have shall some day be given;
Therefore give now, that the season of giving be yours
and not your inheritors'." To me that makes a lot
of sense. Except I still have some use for much of my
stuff like my meager savings or my jeep. I probably could
afford to give more away anyway.
to whom would I give? How can I contribute to the discomfort
of so many people by imposing my need to give on them.
By doing so I obviate their own potential for giving.
Somewhere along the way balance seems to have been sacrificed
for what would appear to be the good of a higher ideal.
But, ultimately, we get back to breathing, in and out.
Gibran concludes his passage on Giving in "The Prophet"
appropriately with his own version of finding balance.
you receivers," he goes on, "--and you are all
receivers--assume no weight of gratitude, lest you lay
a yoke upon yourself and upon him who gives."
there it is. The secret they never told us. Learn how
to be a gracious receiver because it is just as important
as being a generous giver.
poorly could involve not feeling worthy of the gift. In
this situation the giver is being made to take back the
intent of their gift. The receiver mistakenly believes
that by so doing perhaps someone more worthy will receive
it. The giver, of course, experiences this as not being
appreciated or even as rejection. This is probably not
the message either has planned.
poor receiver might even express (directly or indirectly)
displeasure with the gift or could conceivably want more.
Both would be hurtful to the giver and bring imbalance
to the relationship. Or, as Gibran stated, the receiver
could feel a debt that they must repay.
we look to the giver once again. To give is nice, but
to give without the expectation of a return of any kind
is a true gift. For both the giver who knows how to give
and the receiver who knows how to receive can share the
good feelings derived from sincerely helping someone or
of bringing some happiness to someone's life.
just as with breathing, quality of life is enhanced by