The Art of Giving and Receiving: For a Brighter World

This mad world in which we exist is abounding with every type of human being imaginable. From the evilest of evils, to the most angelic of angels, I have encountered cheaters, stealers and liars, alongside real-life superheroes, individuals with the utmost integrity, and those with solid, pristine, golden hearts. With the abundance of dismal news as of late, it is much more challenging to imagine that the latter group comprises the preponderance of this world. Instead, the pessimist within many of us opines that the vast majority of human beings can be found in the middle of the spectrum; while they aren’t evil, they aren’t extraordinarily magnanimous, either. Aside from all the good, bad and everything in-between, we can also split the world into givers, receivers, and the givers-receivers, and for the purposes of this piece, I would like to hone in on these incredibly disparate groups.

Cutting to the chase, I would abjectly like to consider myself part of the givers group. I hope anyone reading this, aware of the human being hiding behind this alter-ego pen name, will agree. Giving can signify countless actions, words, and services, but personally speaking, it signifies pouring love and effort into every relationship, without any expectation of reciprocation. Take a moment to honestly reflect. Are you a giver, a receiver, or a giver-receiver? The receivers are the individuals who I often classify as “free-riders” or those who simply try to take as much as possible from others, unable to fathom that they, too, ought to contribute. Sometimes, the receivers are privileged and have only ever received in their lives, so are oblivious to the concept of reciprocity. Other times, they feel as though they received the short end of the stick somewhere else in life, and relish in the giver’s energy, as they feel it is long overdue to them. The giver-receivers are those able to receive like any receiver, but also emulate reciprocity and kindness in return. They match any favor, and anticipate reciprocation when they initiate a gift. The givers are the people that this world needs more of: Those who continuously pour love and happiness into this universe, without any expectation of reciprocation. As Princess Diana once said, “Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you.” But here’s the catch: For us givers of the world, as we don’t expect reciprocation, many of our partners simply don’t feel the need to show their own love in return, which helps to explain how the givers in this world have grown to be endangered.

Being the alleged altruistic giver that I’ve deemed myself, I often squander thoughts surrounding lack of reciprocity I notice in my own relationships, as I consider these sentiments to be incredibly selfish. I figure, giving and helping others is joyful, so why should we expect anything in return? However, as human beings, I believe one of the greatest gifts (next to that of life) is the ability to love and be loved. As Morrie Schwartz once said, “The most important thing in life is to give out love, and to let it come in.” Even the kindest, most generous individuals have daily struggles, and despite their darkest moments, they carry through and continue to bring good into the world. These individuals deserve as much love and reciprocity as anyone else.

When we spread love into the world, we are giving away pieces of ourselves to others. Without mutuality, giving begins to exhaust us. It’s a bit like preparing an entire Thanksgiving meal, receiving copious guests, all of whom arrive with nothing in hand, and sit at a table in silence, not speaking a single word of gratitude. It’s sad, lonely, and utterly exhausting. Nadia Murad, the co-recipient of the 2018 Nobel Peace Prize, is my living hero for countless reasons, but primarily because despite the hatred and ugly that she’s encountered in her life, having lost nearly her entire family to war, while also having been human trafficked herself, Nadia continues to pour love into this world through an initiative that strives to rebuild the war-torn community from which she escaped. Nadia’s story is a powerful testament to the resilience of human beings to continue inundating the universe with love, despite their personal proximity with pain, hatred and loss. Considering these coined givers inability to slide into the darkness of the world’s confounded turpitude and viciousness, it is imperative to remember that these very people must receive some goodness and light to perpetuate the flame of love within themselves, making them powerful, energy-filled, giver-receivers.

Love isn’t easy, and that stands true in any relationship. A friendship, a romantic relationship, a familial relationship, even a corporate relationship. Each one has its distinct dynamic depending on who’s involved and how they express their love. If you don’t yet know your personal love language, you must take the cheesiest quiz ever: Discover Your 5 Love Languages Quiz. It is a saving grace in any relationship, as you learn to understand how you and your partner each share love in distinct forms. My love language is gift giving, which entails finding pleasure in giving a thoughtful present to someone as I think it will brighten their day. However, I am able to appreciate and receive love in many different forms; acts of service and words of affirmation, to name a few. Just as important as it is to recognize that there are numerous ways to both give and receive love, and to have successful, meaningful relationships, it is imperative that we are able to recognize love in all ways, shapes, and forms.

A personal anecdote perfectly demonstrates the importance of recognizing love from a partner in a myriad of ways. I traveled through Europe quite a bit when I was dating my latest boyfriend, and I would always collect magnets, postcards, candies, keychains, cookies, or other little keepsakes from Athens, Crete, Copehagen, Barcelona, and Madrid. The one consistent item was a snow globe from each city. When said ex-boyfriend visited Charlotte over Labor Day weekend, I had an immense chocolate cake hand-made, which read, “Welcome to Charlotte” and gifted him a book on Charlotte’s basketball history. Moreover, when I knew he and his roommates had a “late” evening out in Manhattan, I’d have bagels and orange juice delivered to their apartment. I’m not going to bore you with the gift-giving intricacies of the relationship, nor the awful stomach ache that ensued from the over-sized dessert, but you get it. Despite what I thought to be sheer generosity and kindness, those care packages quickly grew to be an internal joke within his friend group, as opposed to something thoughtful and caring as I had intended. Finally, as I was jumping on a flight from Minneapolis to Boston, my boyfriend at the time told me that those gifts “freaked him out.” Frankly, I didn’t know how to respond. I figured his unfledged social circle had convinced him that having a partner who is able to show love so abundantly is “weird”. Nonetheless, I was left dumbstruck at the thought of how much time and energy I’d invested into what were to me, acts of love, but to those childish individuals and the person I loved at the time, they were simply something to laugh about or be embarrassed by. Never something to be thankful for, and definitely not something to consider reciprocating in another way, shape, or form. Hence, he would be grouped in the “receivers” category, and I’ve even gone further to create a sub-group just for him: “The really shitty receivers”.

This universe is in a constant state of flow and fluctuation; everything is in constant motion, from the moon and the sun to the changing seasons. Giving and receiving are similar in this regard; in order to give, there must be a receiver, and vice-versa. The dichotomy of the givers and the receivers is problematic for obvious reasons: while some humans are always giving, they are never receiving, and others are reaping the benefits of love and warmth, without reciprocating. This is how love comes to be a stagnant force, never growing or expanding, because as the givers continue to pour out their love, they oftentimes become drained or exhausted, while the receivers simply enjoy the goodness from the givers, without paying it forward. In other words, the receivers are discontinuing the flow of an incredibly important cycle. If this giving-receiving dichotomy continues into the future, givers will eventually be depleted, and the world with grow all the more vicious and dark.

The phenomenon of this very giving-receiving dichotomy can be portrayed perfectly through the Dunkin’ drive through line. As one kind soul decides to treat the coffee to the stranger behind them, the recipient has the choice to do the same for the car behind them, and so on. However, there’s always one who breaks the chain, accepting the free coffee, and not thinking to pay it forward (or backwards, in the case of the drive-through line). Now, imagine if this happened immediately: One kind giver treats a coffee, and the chain stops at the person just behind them: the receiver. Only one person’s life was touched by the giver’s act of kindness, as opposed to a day’s worth of Dunkin’ drive through customers. Thus, with more giver-receivers, more love and happiness are spread into the world.

The giver-receiver phenomenon starts in our immediate circles: family, friends, romantic partners, and beyond. When we as givers are not receiving what we need or want from a relationship, it is our duty to speak up. Remember, the givers of this world are endangered; it is our responsibility to protect our energy. By that I do not mean we ought to be miserly with our love, but instead, the importance of showing others how to give through receiving. Moreover, if when you do give, you feel as though you have lost something, then you have not truly given. As Anne Frank said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” If you self-admittedly are a receiver, make an intentional note to give before receiving, and then give again when you do receive. Some simple ways to spread love include a handwritten note, a phrase of affirmation, holding the door, or simply offering an encouraging embrace.

Finally, remember that the intention behind the giving is what truly matters. Are you giving to gain, giving to receive, or giving unconditionally? The latter-most group gives with no strings attached, and from the deepest part of the heart, but while their expectation is not to receive, it is up to the receivers to continue the altruistic, loving cycle. Buddha once said, “Before giving, the mind of the giver is happy; while giving, the mind of the giver is made peaceful; and having given, the mind of the giver is uplifted.” Another way to look at this cycle is through the idea of Karma: you get out of the world what you give. If you want joy, give joy to others; if you want attention, give attention to others; if you want gratitude, show gratitude to others; if you want peace, give peace to others; and if you want love, give love to others. As Peyton C. March attests, “There is a wonderful mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life – happiness, freedom, and peace of mind – are always attained by giving them to someone else.” Once the receivers begin to give more, and the givers begin to receive more, we will have a more balanced, equal, loving world for all humans to savor.

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