This Holiday Season, 'tis Better NOT to Give than to Receive

THE BRAINWASH

Here's a pattern I see over and over again in the lives of the people I guide. Almost every single person I know does this. I'm guilty of it too. You and I are brainwashed - seriously, brainwashed. And it has caused all of us untold frustration, struggle, heartache and suffering. 

How have we been brainwashed you ask? It's subtle, but trust me it is real. Yes, what I'm about to share may seem harmless at first, but it is responsible for countless problems. It can be seen, heard and felt everywhere, but there's one phrase in particular that sums it up best.

So here you go, drum roll please -"It is better to give than to receive."

"That's it?" you say. "That's all you got?" I can hear you respond. "That's not brainwashing. In fact, it's true. It is better to give than to receive," you probably react.

That's my point. We've bought it hook, line and sinker. This statement is now an axiom of life. "Of course, it is better to give than receive!" 

No one ever challenges this...but that doesn't make it right. Stay with me for a moment. Let's play out the logic and see where this goes.  

RECEIVING STINKS

For starters, if giving is better than receiving, then those who give are better than those who receive. And what this creates is an impossible situation. Those who give are good, but those who give a lot are even better. Super Sizing your giving is thus always good. So, give as much as you can, of everything you can: money, energy, time.....Giving is good and not giving, well, not so good.  

In the process we have created impossible standards of goodness. Who do we rattle off as "good"? The altruistic, selfless, saints on earth - Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King.

Who else? Ummmmm, did I mention Mother Teresa, most nuns, monks and anyone who volunteers at a soup kitchen. But that's about it. The list gets real short, real quickly.

Be selfless. Don't be selfish. That means, you guessed it, give way more than you take. Give what you’ve got, as much as you’ve got, the more the better. You want to live, then give, or so the story goes.

I don't know about you, but if this is good, then I'm just bad. Though I do give a lot, I know my taking is definitely keeping pace with my giving. I simply do not give more than I receive. 

LEARNING TO RECEIVE

My friends, it's just not true. Giving is not goodness and receiving is not bad. 

The universe is about balance. Life is about balance. And giving and receiving are about balance. You should give less than you receive?  

Absolutely not. 

However, the people I know and coach, the type of person to read a Self-Help blog like you are doing right now, are not the type of people to not give. In fact, you are among the biggest and best givers I know. Frankly, my clients struggle far more with giving too much. They feel bad about not giving more. They feel bad when they are not giving, period. They feel bad when they receive (most call it "taking" which is part of the problem). They think they are selfish to receive and not give. 

Giving is an art, but so is receiving. It is crucial we learn to give, but it is equally as important that we learn to receive.
— Baruch HaLevi

But giving doesn't make you good and receiving does not make you bad!

  • When you receive you give the giver the opportunity to give.  

Think about it. If half of us are running around giving, don't the other half have to be their to receive? Receiving is actually a gift to the giver. As it says in the Talmud, "More than the calf wants to suckle, the cow wants to nurse." Yes, we need to give, but equally we need to receive.

  • When you receive you are teaching those around you how to receive.    

Giving is learned, and so is receiving. It is a skill. In fact, it is an art. Truth be told Super Size givers (you know who I’m talking about - that person who is unbelievable at giving everything she has, giving up everything she wants, particularly her time, her desires, her needs) in so many ways can’t receive. She passed the point of “won’t receive” and now, literally cannot receive. She is “selfless.” But who wants to be Less A Self? Being selfish is certainly not good, however, either is not having a sense of self: self-worth, self-pride, self-confidence....

  • When you receive you move from “self-less” to self-centered.

Forget the extremes of self-less or selfish. How about moving to the center, literally and becoming self-centered. The center, giving what we need and want to give, as well as receiving what we need and should receive, is where we need to be. If you only receive and never give those around you suffer. However, if you only give and never receive, your loved ones suffer just as much. 

  • When you receive you not only place yourself at the center, you become a source of centering for others. 

BE AT THE CENTER

Being self-centered means, like the sun, you are at the center of the universe, not in a narcissistic way, but centering way. You hold in orbit the moon of your spouse, your children, your parents, your siblings, your friends, your community...... If the sun is out of orbit, the universe crumbles. If you are out of orbit, running around giving, giving, giving, then who is at home to receive? Being at the center isn't selfish, it's loving!

That's why it is not better to give than receive. That's why, this holiday season, but frankly every season, you need to constantly restore your balance - give and take, share and receive. There is nothing loving about giving to the point of depletion. And there is everything loving in drawing limits, setting boundaries and learning to put yourself at the center.

This holiday season, as you are out there shopping, cooking and serving the world around you, don’t forget about yourself. Give yourself, and your loved ones, the gift of not giving, but instead receiving, and you all will have a happier holidays indeed. 

Baruch HaLevi