To Give Or Not to Give

There are many discourses in our culture, telling us how we should behave.

(Always be suspect with the word “should!” Don’t Should On Yourself) Two cultural beliefs stand out in my mind today since they contradict: “Give to others first,” and “Take care of yourself first.”to give and giving

We all recognize the first, do things for others, especially this time of the year. We make donations, give gifts, remember the marginalized and alone this holiday season. And it feels wonderful (to us and to them).

“Take care of yourself first,” is like putting your oxygen mask on before you help the child next to you in an airplane. It makes sense in many ways. You can asphyxiate while fumbling with your child’s mask and then you are no help to them.

What are you supposed to give?

So, what are we supposed to do? Take care of ourselves first or put others first? How could both of these make sense when they contradict? This leaves us no where to stand to be “right,” unless we simply decide one side of the fence to be on.

The problem is that we take these both as Universal Truths. These are not universal truth, just metaphors and they are helpful depending on the situation. Neither is the one and only “right.” When you are sick, you may have to cancel a commitment you had. Another time, when a friend needs you, you might have to put your own luxury on hold.

I often hear that a person’s previous therapist in response to hearing that they are trying to get better for their children, say, “Eventually you have to want to get better for you.”

(“Have to?” Uh-oh…Sounds like a “should,” This can easily make people negatively judge themselves that they are “not doing it right.” These people are fragile enough.)

But I see that they mean well, they want them to care about themselves. But we are not separate from our children. Loving them is like loving ourselves. And getting better for them is a noble and sustaining reason. It keeps this person alive, can help them get a life they want. It’s all good, why invalidate it by saying we have to do better? I can’t think of something more beautiful than living for your children.

If we are all united in this world, then doing things for others is like doing things for yourself. They are one and them same. (I am Ness.) Sometimes the best healing I have for myself, I have through healing someone else.

Let’s not get stuck in these metaphors: That we should be selfish or selfless.

Give until your heart bursts to yourself and others. Give forgiveness, give gifts, give gratitude, give love, give time, give joy, give tears, give hugs, give an ear, give a speech….

Simply give.

Please share.

20 thoughts on “To Give Or Not to Give”

  1. Great post, Jodi. Giving is a wonderful thing, and especially at this time of year, it’s something we should think about. I’ve always found I enjoy giving more than receiving because the smile on a person’s face when you give them a gift or hope or even just kindness is worth so much.

    Happy holidays!

  2. What a great post – I once sent flowers anonymously to someone. Watching that person exclaim over the mystery and try to “solve” who sent them, was the best gift I could have received. I need to do those sorts of things more often.

  3. I find this to be the hardest time of year for me. No matter what i feel inadequate. Can’t take care of others and can’t take care of myself. I too have the struggle of which comes first. I understand the metaphor of the oxygen mask but what about in everyday life when lives are not a stake. If I take care of myself first I feel like I’m neglecting everyone I love. If I take care of them first I feel drained and sometimes resentful. Resentful toward myself for not taking care of me. I generally fall on the side of takng care of those I love while I stay in the background. And it seems that those I love are content for me to stay in the background. Probably because that is what I have done all my life and they wouldn’t know what to do with me if I changed modes. I know this is a little off topic but your blog broght this up for me. So now this is for everyone out there…Merry Christmas, Happy, Happy Chanukah and
    Ramadan and everything else people celebrate this time of year.

    1. By somehow combining giving to yourself and others might be just the thing. It is not off topic, whatever comes up is perfect. I am so glad you shared. This is quite a step. And I think they might love to see you in the foreground.

  4. Harleena Singh@Freelance Writer

    Wonderful post Jodi!

    Yes indeed, life is all about giving and doing things for others, though very few are really able to realize and accept this simple fact. I guess the joys of giving are experienced truly when you give from your heart, which has a much deeper meaning than just giving things or doing things for the sake of doing them.

    Thanks for the wonderful reminder, and wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 🙂

    BTW- I think the commentluv is not working so you may need to check it out 🙂

  5. Thank you Jodi for this great post. I did discuss this subject many times with my therapists, and i could never change my way of thinking. I just can’t however wrong they said that is. I only “take”by “giving”. Changing this is changing who I am, and I don’t want to change. I know that if i don’t change, I will never feel loved and understood. i am considered stupid, people abuses me while i act stupid. If they need something i can give, I give it, even when I can identify a game they are playing, even when i know what they think of me. And that thing i can give, is the happiness i take.
    This is also contradictory with what i said previously about being invisible, but everyone can feel weak sometimes and let these human feelings win over the rest.
    Merry Christmas Jodi. Much love.

    1. I have so many questions, I am not clear on ‘your way of thinking’ and if it needs to change or just be tweaked so you are even more yourself, you know? And proud of it. I can’t imagine you acting stupid when being abused, how do you survive it? How do you make it through with the lovely attitude you have? Are you calling this stupid? What do you mean by the thing you give is the happiness you take?
      Merry Christmas, beautiful woman!

      1. My “way of thinking” is that I don’t believe anyone must love himself first. By loving myself, I might be depriving someone of something I can give him, whether it is love, time, money or anything. By depriving others, i lose the eventual satisfaction i would get in giving myself. I only love myself through the eyes of others. If someone says “I love you” I know that i have done well and that i deserve to be loved. I hope now it makes sense?
        Acting stupid when being abused: sometimes, people come to me, and start talking and apologizing for hours to have been away, and that they have never forgot about me and and and, I directly recognize the persons who are honest and those who only needs something i might be able to give. I don’t show those that I understand their game. I just play it with them till the end, and give them what they need, knowing in my heart that i won’t see them again until they need something new. I know they are laughing behind my back, saying how stupid she is, we could fool her, but I laugh in my heart, because I know, I would do the same even without all these introductions, and i feel happy with myself that i could make someone happy.
        The thing i give is the happiness i take. My happiness is the one i see shining in other’s eyes, and this happiness is doubled when their happiness comes from something i made?
        I don’t know if i am explaining it clear, but maybe for me it is clear because it is my life

  6. Lovely post, Jodi!

    I am definitely a giver. My mother taught me that. I get greater pleasure from giving to others than in receiving. When I can make others happy, then I am happy. It is for me the essence of pure joy.

  7. A perfect time post (even though I am a little late reading). I am a giver. I have always given freely of my heart, head, and whatever I have that is needed by others. There have been times my heart was crushed by the recipient, which made me question my ways, but after some reflection I realized love and everything is meant to be shared and not everything we (me) give comes back in equal measure- IF it comes back at all. It took some thinking on the why of that, but such is life.

  8. Hello Jodi,

    What I know from experience is this:
    When I feel down and out, when I feel I need to “get” that’s when I really need to give.
    Giving is the fastest way to get you out of a hole and the only thing that’s completely fulfilling.

    Happy Holidays!


    1. I feel the same way. One time I was sad and thought I could never recover then I found a dying turtle on the side of the road, I clean dirt from its eyes and put it in water and it came back to life. My problems completely forgotten and healed on every level. See, we are one, the turtle and I. Thanks for the comment!

  9. GREAT post!! I loved it! I especially liked when you suggest to “give until your heart bursts…” and talk about how we are all inter-connected (united)!! I couldn’t agree more!! A friend (Nicole) and member of a Facebook page I write for (“HOLD MY HAND”) replied to my posting for today with a link to this blog – and I am most appreciative that she did! We must have the “Great Minds” thing going on today!! haha

    Please feel free to check out my blog page for my thoughts on the same subject!
    (today’s post is… “MAKE A DIFFERENCE: GIVING = LIVING”)

    and on “Hold My Hand”:

    Thank you and I look forward to your comments or feedback! ~ Bren <3

    (Be sure to comment, like or follow my page if you would to – or share my link with whomever you wish) 🙂

  10. Oh, thank you Jodi! This was one of my favorite childhood stories, and I spent years reading it to my son as well. I love seeing you dance your words into the theme. Lovely!

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