The give and take

In life, there are givers and takers.

<I’ll pause here for you to collect yourself after such a profound comment>

I know, that’s not exactly an earth-shattering revelation to you. What is of interest to me is how often these two factions end up in some kind of close personal relationship with one another.

I’d like to talk about the dynamic of the Givers and Takers, but also the difference between a Taker and a Receiver.

Takers have a sense of entitlement. Whether it’s just a greedy nature, or they’re simply a product of their environment by being spoiled with attention and gifts, Takers feed on the good nature of Givers. Takers can be manipulative. Takers are not Givers, though they can be generous. But their generosity is a beard to cover up the ulterior motive that lies beneath the surface. Takers need what others can give them as if it were fuel. It may be material things, or it may be attention. Or both.

Receivers are entirely different. There is humility in the Receiver. Receivers are good Givers, but not all Givers make good Receivers. I am a pretty lousy Receiver. I have visited friends who offered me food when they’ve hosted me. I could be starving, with a growling stomach that would scare the dog, yet I would still turn down whatever food they offered. It wasn’t until a friend of mine sat me down and confronted me when I learned the need to be a good Receiver. He reminded me of the great feeling I get by helping someone in need. There is a profound satisfaction in offering something to someone without them asking. The feeling you get is a reward in itself, because you want nothing in return. There were times when I deprived people who cared for me of that very feeling because I turned them down.

The bible defines this kind of relationship, between the Giver and Receiver, as agape love. There is no selfish ambition in it. Agape love requires no reciprocation. However, a good Receiver is also a good Giver, and is eager to “return the favor”, though it is not required, and no strings were attached in the first place. There is no scoreboard, but if you did look at the tally between Givers and Receivers, it would be pretty even.

There is a saying that is good, but needs to be tweaked. My version of the saying is, “Blessed are those who give without remembering, and receive without forgetting.”

The Giver must exercise wisdom. All too often, Givers end up attached to Takers. Takers are quick to accuse the Giver of hypocrisy when they grow weary of the one-way highway of good deeds. The Giver must discern the difference between the Taker and the Receiver. It’s like finding the person on the median of the road with the “Will work for food” sign. Will they really? Or are they simply looking for a handout? Do they truly have the ethic and humility to repay a good deed? Do they really have the depth of character to give back? A good Giver isn’t interested in an equal gesture. A Giver is satisfied with the humble joy of the Receiver. The good Receiver may not return the favor right away, but because of their character, they will not forget the good deed, and will reciprocate eventually in any way they can. The Receiver is able to spin around the old Janet Jackson song by asking themselves, “what have I done for you lately?”

It takes a lot for a Taker to become a Giver and a good Receiver. If you are a Giver with a Taker in your life, you have to come to the point to where you stop enabling them. This isn’t necessarily easy. Resentment will grow if the dysfunctional symbiosis continues. You are better off putting your time and energy into the lives of people who will truly appreciate and respect you.The Taker doesn’t understand the difference between sacrificial, selfless love, and brotherly love. You can and do continue to love the Taker. But sometimes another kind of love that must be implemented by cutting off the Taker.

Tough love.

Tough love means that despite what the Taker insists they need, you recognize their truest, deepest need is to learn to do without, or learn how to take care of it themselves. God is the example of the Ultimate Giver. Even though He is our provider, and every “good and perfect gift” comes from Him, there are times when we do not get what we want. Not because He doesn’t love us, but because He really does love us. He knows what we need can only come about by us not getting what we want.

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