Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Give, and Do Not Ask

Welcome, beautiful traveler. I greet you with a lesson that I seem unable to retain, no matter how many times I learn it.

The old saying insists that It is better to give than to receive.

There are several ways to interpret this. One interpretation is that the act of giving is superior to the act of receiving. I'm kind of dubious of that interpretation, because in an awful lot of situations, receiving just plain rocks. Let's be honest -- if a mysterious black void appeared in the air in front of you, would you rather take a present and throw it into the void, or would you rather a puppy fell out of the void for you? (Assuming you're the kind of person who likes puppies.)

This first interpretation of the phrase suggests that generosity is superior to avarice -- which is true enough -- but if that's all there is to it, then it seems like kind of a weak way to guilt us all into being more generous. I don't like it when people (or aphorisms) try to make me feel guilty, because I've got my own guilt complex to start with and I don't need any help with it, thank you very much. So that's another reason I shy away from this reading of the saying.

A related interpretation is that we should strive to enjoy the act of giving, because if we can teach ourselves to get pleasure from giving, the world will be a better place. I'm a lot more willing to buy this interpretation. But it still carries a rather lecturesome tone. Reading between the lines, one can't help but take it to mean, "You know, you're kind of a selfish twit, and you need to fix yourself. So shape up and do some giving."

But here's the interpretation that I have learned (and keep relearning) to be true.

Giving is simply a better strategy for happiness than receiving.

When you give, you are almost guaranteed to receive some form of gratitude in return. Not in every case, but in most of them. And because the gratitude you receive is unasked-for, it's a bonus. 

In contrast, if you depend on receiving for your happiness, you live your life in a constant state of expectation, and every time that expectation goes unmet, you are disappointed.

So if you give, and give without expectation, life is full of bonus happiness for you, whereas if you hunger to receive, it is full of disappointment.

And if you adopt giving as a strategy, and make it a habit, and find your life constantly enriched by the gratitude that naturally flows your way in response, then sooner or later you find that, without even trying, you've learned to enjoy giving for its own sake.

And then you can give into the void and be delighted by it.

Of course, the giving life requires a lot of energy, and can take a lot out of you. And if you run into a string of ingrates who fail to respond well to your generosity, you can begin to doubt the strategy.

Which is why you need to remember to regularly give to yourself.

There's nothing in the saying that says the giving always has to be giving to others.

Just remember, when you give to yourself ...

Say, "Thank you."

Thank you, goddess of love, for generosity, for gratitude, for lessons learned both easily and through hard knocks.

Lovingly yours,

A devotee


Strumpet said...


This is ALL so very true.

A most excellent post, as always, Devo.

I think the most important thing we have to give ourselves when we are giving people is trust.

The trust to know that even though we are giving people and simply enjoy the act of giving, to trust ourselves enough to know we are being taken advantage of should that unfortunate situation occur.

We have to love ourselves enough to know the difference between being an extremely giving person and being an extremely giving person who is naive and being taken advantage of.

Cos sometimes that unfortunately happens to us too.

We have to understand and know that we, ourselves, have needs too...as giving people.

Maybe I just see it this way because of stuff I'm going through in my own life.

Because I DO prefer to give rather than receive.

I prefer to go shopping for something that I KNOW someone really wants and doesn't expect and I LOVE to wrap the present in such cool ways that cater to their own interests so that even when they see the box, or bag, not knowing what is inside, the smile on a person's face just seeing it. I LOVE that.

I love the smile on my brothers' faces at Christmas time when I give them their gifts, and my mom's, over the smiles on my face upon opening mine.

Though, I love my smiles too.

But, I KNOW my family and friends are giving people too and it goes both ways.

And un-giving people need to learn from the kindness of others, so you cannot expect much.

But, there are, SO unfortunately, people that will take advantage of a generous person. And because we enjoy giving so much, we refuse to see it, and make excuses for the person taking advantage of us, because we think that they just don't know any better, or whatever.

There's a point, unfortunately, where giving goes way beyond a black hole void situation.

Again, perhaps this is just because I feel like I have stuff going on in my own life that makes me see this this way.

But, sometimes, when this stuff happens, I remind myself that an experience like this WILL NOT make me change who I am, WILL NOT take away a quality that I possess....the giving quality....it will remain and I will still trust others to not take advantage and just enjoy because I enjoy.

None of this makes any sense.


I just think it's important to be AWARE of our giving and not just give. We have to love ourselves while we are loving others.

This is an awesome post though, because it is a wondrous thing to focus on the giving aspect of life rather than the receiving.

But, I think through my own personal situation, that this isn't one of those black and white situations for me.

However, I am going to read your post over an over again, because I need to have some more positivity towards learning this lesson and your words are always so beautiful and always so positive and they influence me in ways that are beauteous because I think about the things you say here quite a bit.

You have no idea.

Okay, I've babbled on too much.

This post REALLY hits close to home for me.

Beyond anything I've connected with here yet.

Which is why it has me going on and on and on.


GREAT POST, Your Devo-ness

xoxo, and thanks for making me think

You always do.

In amazing ways.

You freaking rock, yo.

Strumpet said...

I guess what I'm saying is the black vortex can't be MEAN to you.

So giving to the black vortex is cool.

Giving to something that is MEAN to you over and over again because you enjoy giving and care about the MEAN person....

....I just think that eventually wears on the giver's mental health.

As quite obviously witnessed by my opinion in general.


But, overall....


giving is REALLY good.

And we shouldn't give because we want a gift/favour/support/encouragement back. We give because IT FEELS GOOD.

And, usually, giving fosters goodness all around.

Wow. I'm really thinking about this post.

Even in my insomnia.

Devotee said...

What I love about your posts and comments, Strumpet, is that you always give the twin gifts of beauty and feeling.

Also, there's your adorable humility in the way you so often think you're not making any sense when in fact your words are a source of both truth and connection.

Great points about the trust thing, and also about giving to those who are mean. That one kinda describes my dad, although these days he's less often outright mean and mostly just incompetent at being nice.

But he's old and sick and I'm trying to cut him slack.

I definitely don't put as much energy into him as I used to, though.

I like the way you like the way I think.

: )