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Giving to Get

May 20, 2019


“For it is in giving that we receive.” St Francis of Assisi

We often hear about the necessity of giving to get.  Certainly countless sages speak to this principle.

But what does “giving to get” mean? For me, it is this: there’s a kind of profoundly spiritual transaction that takes place when we share with others what we’ve learned or gained through our struggles. That somehow or in some way what we’ve learned, achieved or gained — both material and non-material — is enhanced when we share it with another person.

One Story of Giving to Get

“When you learn, teach. When you get, give.” Maya Angelou

Jules is a grateful recovering addict, now five years sober. While it hasn’t been an easy journey, Jules has learned a lot on her path to sobriety and has received many gifts along the way.

What gifts has Jules received?  Importantly, she has been returned to health —  mental, physical and emotional. She can now care for her young family and provide for their needs. And, she reports, on a daily basis she is becoming “happy, joyous and free”.

How does she now give away what she’s been given? Aside from the satisfaction she derives from her renewed ability to provide for her loved ones’ needs, she gives inspiration to others by regularly sharing her story in recovery meetings. She also has undergone training in addiction counseling and volunteers in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center one afternoon a week. Through her story and her example she gives hope to many people who are struggling with addiction.

What does Jules gain from her giving? Sharing her time and her journey with others makes Jules stronger, more invested in and thus more resilient in her own recovery. And, importantly, she receives pleasure from seeing her young family thrive as a result of her continuing recovery and transformation.

Wholesome Vs Unwholesome Giving

“Give generously to them and do so without a grudging heart.” Deuteronomy

There certainly is fulfillment in selfless giving to others, but we need to be very clear about the difference between wholesome and unwholesome giving in all aspects of our lives.

Wholesome or healthy giving is done without expectation of gratitude or reciprocity. It  comes from a full heart and a genuine intention to be of service with no strings attached. It also comes with an understanding that the outcome of our giving is out of our hands.

However, unwholesome or unhealthy giving involves giving what we don’t have with an expectation that the others will respond in a way that pleases or satisfies us.

Also less than wholesome giving usually has a hidden agenda that involves controlling the outcome or indeed the recipient of our largess. And, when it doesn’t work out as we wish, we feel angry, resentful and victimized.

Giving and Getting in Relationships

“The love we give away is the only love we keep.” Elbert Hubbard

Giving to get in relationships, is not and never should be self-serving or self-focused – it’s not just about us.

Nor is it about fixing the other person. When we feel the need to fix or correct someone else we are acting out of a selfish need to have that person be who and what we desire them to be.

Giving to get in relationship is also is not about over-giving so that we feel depleted and used. It’s also not about doing for others what they can and should do for themselves.

However, when we practice wholesome giving, it is the best gift we can give to that special person in our lives. We do this by deeply listening and attending to the other person’s words —  and the meaning beneath their words. We do this by leaving space for the unspoken, noticing and reflecting on what is said while leaving space for more to be added. In this way, our listening signifies our unconditional acceptance of the other person, even when we don’t necessarily agree with their attitudes or their actions.

Equally, we give to the other person when we share about ourselves from the heart. We do this by communicating our innermost needs, our frailties and our dreams. We also give when we don’t seek to hide our imperfections, thus allowing ourselves to be vulnerable in their presence.

In that way, we create enduring bonds with that special person, which deepen further still  as we discover our similarities and as we respectfully accept each other’s differences.

These are the most precious gifts we can give to each other, because in this manner we are creating together authentic connection, trust and safety… and a sense of “home”.

 “To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” Mark Twain