give and take


Some people are givers and some are takers. I suspect most are a blend of the two.

It’s true, we all have needs but we also all have something worth sharing. From my observations, healthy people tend to be givers more than they are takers. And it has nothing to do with how much money they make.

I’ve also noticed that people who are quick to give also tend to be happier people.

Of all the many things we can give, value is one of the best. To value someone, to esteem their worth, to accept them as they are is to give them a true treasure. But it’s not always easy to do, nor is it clear how best to do it. 

How do we know what makes a person feel valued?

Speaking for myself, I know I have often looked for value in things like material possessions, positions, and getting approval from others. These things are fine in themselves, but when it comes to measures of personal worth, they all fall short.

I watched a talk by Tim Keller about idols, how we worship them and in turn expect them to save us, and how they always fail us. It paralleled nicely with the material I learned from a class on counseling I’d attended just a few weeks prior.

Now, helping someone pay the bills for the month, knitting them a scarf, or offering to take them out for a coffee are certainly kind gestures. In fact, those may be excellent instances of giving value. But I find the easiest and most effective way to give value is to just offer your ear, to hear someone’s story and, in doing so, to really see them as a person and to show them you care. 

The simple act of patiently listening, whether it’s with your spouse, neighbor, or a complete stranger is both powerful and something anyone can do. And yet, we so often neglect it in our busy lives. Instead of giving value, we often spend our time in relentless pursuit of idols.

Maybe one of the greater challenges of giving in such a way is that there’s no immediate payback or even a guarantee that the gift will ever be reciprocated. It’s a giving without any taking and that can be pretty hard to do, especially when you’re already feeling “spent”. 

However, giving, like creativity, is infectious. I don’t know about you, but every time I get a gift and especially every time someone spends time getting to know me, it makes me want to pass it on and do the same for another. In time, it can turn a taker into a giver.

Though there’s no easy way to measure it, giving in this way is a gift in itself because it fills you with something true and it makes the world more beautiful. It is an artwork of the soul.

And there’s no better time to do it than now—you don’t have to wait for a birthday or Christmas. So why not think of someone with whom you could spend some time, share a little bit of your life, and show that you care about the details of theirs. You might be just the gift they needed.