“It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Jesus of Nazareth).
ONE OF LIFE’S MOST BASIC DECISIONS IS THE DECISION BETWEEN GIVING AND RECEIVING. During our lifetimes, each of us will do a good bit of both: sometimes we will give, while at other times receiving will be our lot. But by the time we die, each of us will have established one or the other as our predominant pattern. That is, our friends and family will know that one pattern — either giving or taking — has prevailed over the other in our lives. Deciding which of these modes of living will be ours is a decision of huge consequence.
Most of us struggle to be as giving-oriented as we would like to be. Why is that? There are many reasons, I suppose, but one is that we tend to put off giving until we have become more “prosperous.” In other words, we delay giving because, at the moment, we feel that we just can’t afford it. And this is true with our time and energy as well as with gifts that are more monetary. We operate on the assumption that being a consistent giver requires that we have ample resources.
But Harold Nye was undoubtedly correct when he said, “If you are not generous with a meager income, you will never be generous with abundance.” So to become givers we need not wait until we reach some stage in life when giving will have become easy. Indeed, when we give out of an abundance, we hardly miss what has been given, and our giving means less than when it requires real sacrifice. Since sacrifice makes giving more gratifying, people of less means are in a position to be more blessed in their giving than others. As George Eliot said, “One must be poor to know the luxury of giving.”
But the very best giving is the giving of ourselves, and here is where we should be the most generous. Indeed, nothing else we can give to others matters if we withhold the gift of a gracious self. As Shakespeare put it in Hamlet, “Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.” Before the opportunity escapes us, may we learn to be givers more than takers — and givers of ourselves most of all.
That man may last, but never lives,
Who much receives but nothing gives;
Whom none can love, whom none can thank,
Creation’s blot, creation’s blank.