TO GIVE OR TO RECEIVE?
Cooperation and friendship is built on the acts of giving and receiving. In this article, we look at the curious case of some who value giving over receiving, and those who receive without ever thinking of giving.
Human relationships are comprised of giving and receiving. While only some of us in our daily working lives become traders in the tangible sense, all of us – without exceptions – are traders in the intangible sense. The very essence of building a bond with another human is to give something to them and get something back in return. Whether that ‘something’ is a measurable entity – like a sack of grain, perhaps – or immeasurable – like care given to an elderly person – they all go into the checks and balances that make up the human fabric.
We’re taught from our childhoods that giving is nobler than receiving. While this lesson keeps us all from becoming selfish, it also sometimes shrouds the ill effects of giving too much. Today we’ll see the features of wise giving and gracious receiving.
• Giving can leave a person burnt out and resentful. Even though in our conscious minds, we can tell ourselves that we do not expect anything in return, instinctively we expect at least not to be wronged for the favours we do to people. Rare is the man who can look back at a life of giving selflessly only to be trampled upon, and refrain from saying the words: ‘After all I have done…’ So while giving is good, unencumbered giving could lead to one feeling like a doormat.
• Discomfort with the act of receiving could be due to insecurity in the recipient. Perhaps they have had previous experiences where falling in someone’s debt had led to painful memories of feeling like a slave. Such people generally tend to be individualists, and often try to measure everything that comes their way, so that they would not need to ask someone for help.
So the best way to deal with this apparent contradiction is to first accept that we all need to give and receive help in order to live. No man is an island, and no man goes through life without taking from others. First we take from our parents, not only the tangible benefits of accommodation, food and clothing, but also the immeasurable, intangible joys of love, kindness and companionship.
Then, as we grow older and come into our own, we take from society in the form of loans, and in our romantic and personal relationships, we seek solace in the company of like-minded people, and finally we settle down with one to start a family.
This transition from receiver to giver happens to everyone. We are tasked with bringing a life into the world, and then with caring for it so that it can one day become independent. At the same time, our parents, who gave when we were children, now need support from us. The wheel has to turn a full circle.
Therefore there is no ethical difference between giving and receiving. As humans, we have to do both. But what we need to do is to strive for balance between the two, and to be wise when we give and to be grateful and gracious when we receive.