“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” –Maya Angelou
You have probably heard the familiar adage, “It is better to give than to receive.” It would be difficult to find someone who would say otherwise. The act of giving elicits positive feelings and emotions for both the giver and the receiver, making it one of the most important exchanges you can have with someone.
So yes, the easy answer to the question posed in this article’s title would be that it is better to give than to receive. However, to better understand giving, you must also understand the importance of receiving.
Giving vs. Receiving
The action of giving and receiving has a powerful impact on relationships, not only with others but with yourself as well. Think about your past experiences with giving and receiving. After some consideration, you may realize that you are better at one than the other.
- Are you one of those people who is naturally a giver, a doer, or a caretaker?
- How do you react to receiving compliments? Is it with ease and gratitude, or do you get the urge to deflect and minimize praise?
- What has been your history with receiving love? Does it come with struggle and hardship?
Ideally, the exchange of giving and receiving is effortless; when there is a struggle, it is worth examining and figuring out why.
There is no doubt that giving is celebrated. You may have been taught the importance of giving by your parents, friends, or extended community as you were growing up. What probably wasn’t modeled (or celebrated) as much as the importance of being able to receive. You may consider yourself a great giver, but if you have a hard time receiving, over time you may develop feelings of resentment, anger, and burnout. Remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. You need to know how to replenish yourself and have your needs met. Ultimately, the better you are at receiving, the better you become at giving.
The Importance of Giving
The next time you give, ask yourself why you are doing it and consider the true meaning behind it. Your desire to give may be the result of various impulses and emotions, such as kindness or guilt. No need to judge—just notice and see what comes up. A lot of your behavior may come from an unconscious part of yourself, resulting in default responses. The more you can become aware of your thoughts and behaviors, the more adept you become at seeing and making changes that help you evolve for the better.
While you essentially know how to give, here are a couple of tenets of healthy giving to keep in mind:
- Give from a place of love.
- Give without expecting anything in return.
When you give from this place within yourself, you never feel like your cup is empty. It becomes a freeing and energizing experience and enables you to focus on what you authentically have to offer others. It strengthens your relationships and opens you up to wholesome new ones.
On the other hand, if giving depletes you, this is a sign of unhealthy giving. While there could be many reasons for this, having expectations is a common one that only leads to disappointment or resentment. Feelings of obligation and guilt are a heavy burden, and yet it is wholly unnecessary. There is no benefit to this type of giving.
The Importance of Receiving
Receiving is necessary and important. While giving feels wonderful, it only works when there is a receiver. Allowing yourself to be a gracious receiver is a humbling experience and is truly an act of love because it offers a chance for others to give.
Receiving is not about expecting others to give to you because you are more important or deserving. It is about receiving a gift without guilt or neediness, and without feeling obliged to give back. Maybe you can’t receive gifts without negative thoughts popping up, such as, “I don’t deserve this” or “Now I feel like I owe her/him.”
How you receive is just as important to the giver’s happiness as it is to your own. To receive in a good way requires you to do away with the negative thoughts and instead pause and reflect on the exchange and what it means: friendship, support, love, etc. This fuels a great deal of happiness in both the giver and receiver.
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An Expanded View of Giving and Receiving
“The universe operates through dynamic exchange . . . giving and receiving are different aspects of the flow of energy in the universe. And in our willingness to give that which we seek, we keep the abundance of the universe circulating in our lives.” –Deepak Chopra
This quote by Deepak eloquently describes the flow of circulation upon which everything in the universe depends, including yourself. If one aspect of this energy flow doesn’t function, the entire cycle ceases to function, and the circulation of energy becomes stuck.
Nature provides perfect examples of this dynamic exchange of giving and receiving that is necessary for the flow of life. You receive the gift of oxygen from trees, and you give them carbon dioxide. Insects receive nectar from flowers, and they give the gift of pollination. Symbiotic relationships are abundant in nature and are needed for the ecosystem to continue to thrive. Since you are also part of nature, you too need to both give and receive to stay happy and healthy.
So Which One Is Better?
Now let’s come back to the question of which one is better: giving or receiving? As discussed, one cannot happen without the other. Giving and receiving are both aspects of the same flow of energy in the universe. It’s therefore important to be both a good giver and a good receiver.
Giving can inspire great positive change and healing in a world that deeply needs it. Spiritual and religious leaders espouse the blessings of giving for a reason—it has the power to immediately shift one into a state of grace.
Spending more time thinking about ways you can give is often accompanied by feelings of peace and joy. Giving comes naturally to humans because it taps into that innate part of ourselves that gravitates toward connection. Become conscious of your current relationship with giving and see how it can be improved so you don’t fall prey to the downside of giving too much (or too little) of yourself. This is where self-care, in the form of being able to receive support, love, and encouragement from others, plays a vital role in keeping the energy of giving and receiving circulating in your life.
Here are some small ways you can strengthen the flow of giving in your life:
- Compliment a stranger.
- Say a silent prayer for someone.
- Send a message of appreciation.
- Give a hug.
- Say “thank you.”
- Give an anonymous gift.
If you find yourself lucky to be on the receiving end of any of these gifts, be sure to take a moment to pause and truly accept it with a sense of gratitude, honor, and appreciation. In this way, both you and the giver will reap the benefits and be truly blessed.