There are many benefits to being a “giver.”
Being more of a giver than a taker has been proven to increase levels of happiness, lower blood pressure and stress, and contribute to a greater sense of empathy and meaning.
Social psychology explains that the human desire to give is partly rooted in the fact that we are social creatures, needing others to survive. When we give to another person, it is one way to establish our worth, secure our place in the in-group, and solidify social bonds. Essentially, our existence as humans relies on the act of giving (and receiving…but that’s a topic for another day).
Despite all of that, givers may find themselves in situations where the giving feels less than great.
When that happens, it may be because we didn’t take time to consider:
Is this person asking for what I am offering?
Sometimes our offers are rejected. We often take that personally, but it might be that the person did not want what we were offering, or perhaps was simply unable to receive it.
How do I feel about what I am offering: is the offer coming from a place of authenticity? Or out of obligation or fear?
Giving out of obligation can foster resentment or score-keeping; giving out of fear can lead to shame from our collapsed boundaries.
Do I have the resources to give what I am offering?
Offers made when we are under-resourced can be deeply depleting—and cancels out most of the aforementioned benefits. (See “Try it!” below.)
Perhaps this could be the new benchmark:
Only Offer What You Are Able To Give Freely.
Of course there will be times that you need to give things you don’t actually want to give. I can imagine how some managers (or family members!) would react if you responded to a request with, “I cannot offer that freely right now.”
But we could pause and think: “Is this something I want to and am able to give? With a clear and open heart?” For as we know, the deep connection forged from offers—freely given—are at the core of our humanity.
*For some of us, the word “giver” is also connected with the award-winning Lois Lowry book, “The Giver.” A classic!
If the above article was too abstract, here’s one way to frame it in very practical terms: Spoon Theory. Originating from those who live with chronic pain and other conditions, Spoon Theory asks you to imagine that you start the day with a limited amount of energy, represented as a drawer full of spoons. Each activity or action requires a certain amount of spoons: a meeting with a toxic boss may cost more spoons than, say, a walk with a friend, but everything “costs” a certain number of spoons.
You cannot give more spoons than you have in the drawer! So you must consider:
- How many spoons is this event/activity going to require?
- Is it worth that many spoons?
- How many spoons do I have available at the given moment?
- What will it take to replenish the spoons for tomorrow?
And, most importantly, recognize that it is ok to simply say, “I have no spoons left to give.”
blast from the past
“We seek support and love in all of its forms; we feel the drive towards building a network of fellow humans. It becomes clear that getting some needs satisfied requires our fellow creatures.
It is a balance: finding ways to meet our own needs and/or asking for what we need from others. And that’s where it starts to get interesting…”
Slice of Sunshine, July 22, 2021
Receive the “Slice of Sunshine” in your inbox by subscribing to the Department of Practical Sunshine newsletter.