Giving and Taking: Finding Balance Between the Two
Finding Balance Between the Two
In today’s culture, giving and taking have very clear associations. Giving is considered kind, generous, charitable, and an all around positive, admirable characteristic. Taking, on the other hand, is more often considered selfish, manipulative, greedy, or otherwise negative. In truth, however, both giving and taking are necessary for an even, balanced life, and if you have too much of either one you will be unhappy. But how do you strike that balance of giving to others as well as taking for yourself?
Giving always seems the more preferable side of this balance, and there are many ways we all give. We give our skills, time, and labor at work or volunteering, we give gifts to other people and we give of ourselves when we are good listeners, supportive friends, loving spouses, and involved family members. We give smiles to strangers and donations to charities. Giving can make us feel happy and fulfilled, and is a great way to be part of our community.
Taking is just as common as giving, but it is not nearly so easily recognized. We take benefits from our work, both as a paycheck as well as health care, pensions, and promotions. We take gifts from other people, or we take advantage of community services, such as using parks, libraries, or museums. If we accept awards, compliments, or recognition, that is also a form of taking.
It is too easy, however, to give or take too much. When we give too much, we have no time left for ourselves or our interests, and all that we give may come to be expected rather than appreciated. Our schedule becomes overcrowded, and we may not be able to keep all our commitments. This builds resentment and makes us less willing to continue giving as we get frustrated and fatigued.
When we take too much, we lose our confidence and self-esteem because we feel we can’t accomplish
“Giving can make us feel happy and fulfilled, and is a great way to be part of our community.”
tasks or meet goals without help. We may feel bad about rumors or misconceptions about why we have to take, and we may lose friends as they become tired of giving too much to us.
When looking for a balance between giving and taking, there is one great misconception most people have—that it must be equal. In fact, our giving and taking balance never needs to be fifty-fifty, and very rarely will it be. Everyone’s needs and abilities are different, and how much one person gives or takes may be very different than another person’s individual balance. We each need to find our own balance that helps make our life fulfilling both when we give and when we take.
It can be very easy to increase the giving in our daily lives. While larger giving can mean volunteering for a work committee or joining a community group to offer your services for charity, giving can also mean simply offering sincere compliments to others or doing small things to make others smile. It might be helping out a friend who needs a ride, doing a load of laundry for an ailing neighbor, or choosing to increase a donation to a church, school, or other charity. More giving might just be smiling even when you don’t feel like it or waving a driver into traffic in front of you instead of cutting them off. Every time you give, you will feel more positive and your own happiness will swell.
For many people, giving more can be easy, but you don’t need to take less when you give more. If you want to find balance, you need to take more as well. That doesn’t mean, however, that you need to take advantage of others or use more resources than you truly need. Taking can be as easy as graciously accepting compliments, delegating tasks when you’re overwhelmed, or using benefits you have earned, such as days off, discounts, or other rewards. Taking may also be simply reserving time for yourself, such as to enjoy a favorite hobby, relax with a good book, go to a movie, or take a walk without feeling guilty about the time, effort, or money you’re spending on what you like to do. This type of taking can help refresh your spirit so you are able to give even better, keeping that delicate balance in check.
How can you judge if you’ve reached a giving and taking balance? From one day to the next, that balance may change, but you should be giving as much as you are comfortable and taking what you need. Counting your blessings, reflecting in a gratitude journal, or recounting the good and bad parts of each day can help you see where you may need to adjust your balance as you learn what types of giving and taking work best for you. Taking careful note of others’ reactions to your giving and taking as well as trying to be less judgmental of others’ balance can also help you reach and maintain a healthy giving and taking balance of your own. When you find that balance, you will find a richer, happier, more fulfilling life to enjoy. ■