“It’s Better to Give Than to Receive,” is a saying many, including me, grew up with. It was well known and believed to be something for all to attempt to embrace.
This saying has many positives reasons to be shared and practiced. However, I contend there are also many weaknesses with the saying as it exists.
First, a look at the saying, what it means, and how it is positive. With its origin from the Bible, it probably came into existence to encourage people to be less selfish and more generous. A general interpretation of the Bible verse tells us we were shown all things and thus encourages us to help the weak. Giving, it says, is in obedience with God’s command, submits to God’s Lordship, exists in God’s heart, illustrates God’s salvation, shows a trust in God’s provision, widens God’s smile, advances God’s kingdom, promotes God’s sanction, testifies to God’s power, and gives praise to God’s character.
When looking at the saying and its general meaning, giving is a generous and faith based practice. Like many I grew up hearing the saying, “It better to give than receive.” Growing up with this saying, I’m sure like many others, I believed I was not blessed unless I gave. Though I believe there is blessing in giving, I also do not believe the saying is complete.
How many times have you given something, or known someone who gave, whose gift was received with a negative response? “Oh, you shouldn’t have.” “I don’t deserve this.” “This is too much.” Then there are also those who respond to a compliment with, “This old thing?” or “You give me too much credit”. And the many other responses so often said when given something.
My question is: if it’s so blessed to give why isn’t it equally blessed to receive? I believe giving and receiving create a circle. When either part is not done with the best intentions, then the circle is not whole, but broken and movement becomes stagnant.
I am not encouraging people give for the sake of giving or be greedy about receiving. I do believe when something is given for lesser reasons or is not well received, it breaks the flow of positive energy.
It can truly hurt when one gives a gift, whether a physical object, an action, or a positive word, that is rejected. If the giving is done from the heart, with positive intent or for good reason, the giver deserves to have that gift received. To want to give with good intention and have that gift rejected with a dismissive phrase chips cruelly at the intention and diminishes the giving. After a while the act of giving does not have the same joy and uplifting effect giving ought to have.
The catch is that gifts of time, attention, emotion, or a physical gift first and foremost needs to be given with positive intent and not out of obligation. Yes, some gifts are given out of obligation—it’s part of the social norms. But even out of obligation the choice of what to give can be done with a desire for the gift to be well received. This means that finding “a something” to simply give is not a gift given. It’s simply something given. So think about what is being given to whom. I know people who compliment themselves about their gift giving habits: what bargain or clearance place they got them from or how many they give or a comparison with what was given compared to what was received, or well … you can fill in from your experience. If you are comparing, the giving is not from a positive place. “It is better to give from a positive place than to simply do so to receive.”
There will of course be exceptions to what I’m saying. For example, a gift that is too much or given with strings is not given with positive intent.
What I suggest is when given a gift, receive that gift. The reception can be as important to the flow of positive energy as is the giving. Even when the gift is not to your liking, a simple “thank you” will suffice to receive. What is meant to be encouraged is to have the full circular positive energy flow that is the cycle from giver to receiver and back again. Completing the circle of giving with positive intent to receiving with positive reception completes the circle of positive energy. And we can all use more positive energy flow in our life.
Keep the circle moving. The wider the circle of giving and receiving, the more who you will want to give too and the more who will want to give to you. That means all giving—physical gift, time, affection—all giving and all receiving. Be a real part of the circle’s flow. When this positive energy flow is strong and moving, those we give to and receive from will not be a one-on-one exchange alone. Instead, those we give to and receive from may not be the same person. Giving and receiving becomes an exchange with many.
And it all happens when we give with clear intent and receive with grace.