Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Are You a Giver or a Taker?


You are at the office. You and your team have been working overtime, trying to increase sales for your business. The early indications are that the strategies you have implemented are working. Sales seem to be up, but you won’t know for sure until you get the final report for the quarter. Your boss asks to meet the entire team for lunch to discuss the report.

After everyone has assembled at the local pizza place, your boss takes out a folder and asks for attention.

“I am happy to announce,” she says, “that sales are up 46% for the quarter.”

After the applause dies down, she says, “Now for a little surprise.”

You hoot and holler with the rest of your team, wondering what surprise she has in store.

“Each one of you…” She pauses for dramatic effect. “…and your spouse, will be going on a three-day Caribbean cruise at the end of this month.”

The reactions begin.

Will you react with the Takers? Or will you react with the Givers?

The Takers React

“Are you paying for our plane tickets to get there?” asks Robert.

“Yes, plane tickets are paid for,” answers your boss.

“What about gas to drive to the airport? Who’s paying for our gas?”

“Each couple will be responsible for their own transportation to and from the airport.”

“So it’s going to cost me money to take advantage of this little reward?” persists Robert.

“ I knew there had to be a catch,” says Suzanne. “And what about child care? Are you reimbursing us for babysitters?”

“Excuse me, but I just went on a cruise last year,” says Jacqueline. “Can I just have the money you would spend on my trip instead?”

Your boss looks increasingly uncomfortable.

“I’m not married, so can I bring someone else, or can I have the money that my spouse would have cost if I was married?” asked Lawrence.

“How many days off work does this entail, and how are we going to be compensated for our lost work hours?" asks Suzanne.

“Cruises make me sick,” says Lisa. “Can I go to Vegas instead?”

By this point your boss is sorry she ever spent the last few days planning this surprise for her employees. She’s ready to call off the whole trip. Until…

The Givers React

“Well I think this sounds like great fun!” exclaims Mark. “I have never been on a cruise.”

“It will be so much fun!” agrees Jodi. “Hey, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we make a list of all the people who need child care, and then see if we can combine sitters?”

“Oh that’s a great idea! says Jan. “I just have the one little guy so maybe we can save on sitter costs if we go in together.”

“That might work with the gas situation too,” says Dirk. “I’ll make a list to send around to see who wants to car pool to the airport. I’ve got a van that seats eight. We can split the gas costs.”

“These are great ideas,” says Mark. “I know everyone will be busy packing the night before, so I’ll have a potluck open house at my home. People can just drop by and grab some food and not have to worry about making a dinner while they’re getting ready to go.”

Your boss looks at them and smiles. This trip might be salvageable after all. Whose side were you on?

In most situations in life there is an opportunity for you to be a giver or a taker, a positive force or a negative force, lightness or darkness. Could you almost feel the lifeblood being sucked out of the room when you heard the reactions of the Takers? Were you thinking of people you know who react in exactly that way, no matter what the situation? Do you want to be around Takers? (Both the Takers and the Givers were based on people I know. I'll bet you know some Takers and Givers in your own life.)

Are You a Giver or a Taker?

Are you always early for work, dates, meetings?
Or do you consistently show up late for everything, forcing others to wait, to restart the meeting, to call to see where you are, or to make excuses for you?

Are you self motivated? When there’s work to be done, do you start right in, with the end goal in mind?
Or do you wait for someone to motivate you, to offer incentives, to give prizes or rewards before you’ll put in your best effort?

Are you the lender, when others are in need?
Or are you the borrower, always needing money, tools, a ride?

Do you offer emotional support to others?
Or are you always the one needing support, because something bad happened to you again?

Are you self-sufficient?
Or, do you feel it’s someone else’s job to take care of you? (Your parents’, your employer’s, the government’s)

Do you give your employer your best effort?
Or do you feel your employer “owes” you something for your services? (internet access, cigarette breaks, time for personal calls)

Are you the parent to your children?
Or do you expect your children to parent you or to be your emotional crutch? (Mommy has another one of her headaches so make your own dinner, Daddy feels grumpy when he gets home from work so go to your friend’s house, Mother doesn’t get any “me” time so she’s going out, Father had a good life until kids came along, etc.)

Are you accountable for your own actions?
Or is someone else always to blame? (Your parents were mean to you, or it’s not your fault your work isn’t done because your co-workers keep talking to you, or your boss just doesn’t understand your special needs.)

Is life full of good things, happy people, exciting events and meaningful moments?
Or do bad things always happen to you? Are other people just “lucky?” Is life one soap opera after another?

What Happens When a Giver Has to be a Taker?

Life happens, even to Givers. You may lose your job and have to be on food stamps for a while. The one tool you need is the one that your brother-in-law has. Your spouse becomes disabled and you need a shoulder to cry on. Does relying on someone else for a while turn you into a Taker?

No. Everyone in the course of life is either a giver or a taker. What matters is how you spend the majority of your time. Does every day involve more giving or more taking?

I read an article recently by a Rabbi Yoni Posnick, who addresses this very thing. (He got his inspiration from another Rabbi—Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler.) To quote Rabbi Posnick:

“What happens when one giver gives to another giver? Inevitably the giver becomes a taker. Therefore Rabbi Dessler adds a third category, the receiver.The receiver receives from other givers what they wish to give and, in return, reasserts his role as a giver by saying “thank you.” Expressing appreciation converts every act of receiving into an act of giving. By doing so, you have given a heartfelt expression of goodwill to the other.”

The Art of Gratitude

To avoid being continual Takers, we must be grateful for the people who surround us. Take a moment to ponder those who are deserving of our gratitude. Have you ever thanked:

Your spouse for cooking a meal, taking out the garbage, spending time with the kids, or cutting the lawn?

Your boss for your job?

Your children when they do their chores without being told or when you see their kindness toward a sibling?

Your co-workers for being pleasant to work with?

A cashier when she double-bags those heavy juice bottles?

Your minister, priest, rabbi, for a touching sermon?

Your parents for all they have done for you?

A teacher who believed in you?

Your neighbor who shoveled part of your walk too?

Your friends for making life bearable, and laughing with you?

Your siblings, for loving you no matter how big of a jerk you were as a child?

Training our Children to be Givers

In high school, we had a mandatory marriage class. Our teacher, Father Ramaeker, impressed upon us the following: “If you go into a marriage saying everything will be 50/50, your marriage will fail. You must go into a marriage expecting 90/10, that is you give 90% and expect only 10% of your partner. If all people entered marriage with that in mind, there would be no divorce.”

How do we ensure that our children are Givers when they grow up? How do we make sure that they are not continually the Taker in a marriage, a job, a friendship?

According to Rabbi Posnick:
“It is our responsibility to train our children to be “givers.” They should
not be allowed to merely “take”---here is the car, here is the credit card,
here is some money---with little or no appreciation or positive expression
of gratitude in return. This fosters an attitude that life is about “taking”
and it most certainly carries over into marriage.”

It not only carries over into marriage, but also our work relationships, parent/child relationships and friendships. Raising a child with an entitlement mentality is a form of abuse. The child who grows up expecting everything to be handed over is socially crippled for life. The little girl grows up expecting her every whim to be satisfied by her husband. Or she believes the commercials that tell her to spend all the money she has shopping because she “deserves it.” Or she can’t understand why she gets fired from job after job, blaming her employer because she can’t be expected to spend every minute at work actually working.

The little boy grows up railing at the government for not providing health insurance, or railing at his employer for firing him for being late, or railing at his wife for not working enough hours.

So, what is it? Shall we strive to be a community of Givers or Takers? Will we raise our children to bless others or to be “entitled?”

What can we do today, to be a Giver? What giving actions are your trademark?


  1. We all can learn a lot about assessing our behavior and reactions from reading this post. I think that I fall into the Giver category. My husband would probably be more on the Taker side when it comes to a reward. He asks all those questions about possible loop holes. I tend to think it's great that someone gave me anything. I want my kids to think like givers. Unfortunately, they fall into the taker category too many times. I'm always amazed at how they will look to what they can get next before fully enjoying what they have in front of them. For example, maybe a week after getting the latest video game, they are already asking about when they can get the next one. This generation does seem to think they are entitled. I've been reinforcing the notion of gratitude at home with my kids. I think parents need to really ensure that their kids realize the importance of hard work, gratitude and generosity. In this world celebrating possessions and status, we parents have a big job ahead of us!! Thanks for this post, Randi!

  2. Awesome remarks, septembermom! I'm always overjoyed when I'm given anything too. I have my parents to thank for that. We got new things (clothes or toys) at birthdays, Christmas and Easter. That's it. If I wanted something in July I had to put it on my Christmas list. I've been guilty of wanting my son to have "things" and of helping him get them too soon. His classmates always have the latest Wii games or new bikes or even high ticket items like four wheelers, iPods and cell phones at age ten. So he always feels like we're the "without" family. You're right, it is a big job and sometimes the best thing we can do for our kids is to say no. I think you're sooo right about teaching our kids "hard work, gratitude and generosity." Thanks for your thought-provoking comments!

  3. Hayden: And I'm so glad you are! Cuz what would you be if you weren't?

  4. Randi: Good post.

    There are many aspects of giving and taking. One of them is what makes the world go 'round...money.

    Briefly, rampant liberalism in this country is part of the reason that a good portion of the people are takers (illegal immigrants is only the tip of the iceberg). Those who are givers by nature and do so voluntarily are burdened beyond their fair share in order to enable the takers.

  5. Auntie M: Well said! I learned back in my single mother days on food stamps, that the government almost actually prefers that we are takers. If we are being supported financially in any way by the government, then they feel they have the right to control you. The more takers, the more people they can control. Once, when my paycheck was a day late, they accused me of fraud because being a day late caused my paycheck to be counted toward the following month. I had to have our company headquarters in Texas PROVE that the plane that carried our checks was late in order to not be processed for food stamp fraud. I walked into that office and said,"My kids and I will eat dirt before we take another dime.Take me off." They didn't like it. They wanted me on food stamps. We didn't eat dirt but we ate lots 'o mac 'n cheese and Ramen! :)

  6. You're using a THREE DAY Carribean cruise as an example?

    HAHAHAH! What PLANET is that on?

    That's SO FAR removed from the reality of my workplace, it's not funny.

    We had a "Holiday" (i.e. Christmas) dinner last year, scheduled from 2:30-4:30 afternoon, during office hours. Management "encouraged" us to attend.

    But...not only did you have to pay for your own $15 meal, but if you wanted to go, you were expected to use your own vacation, or work extra hours to make up for it.

    I was neither a giver, or a taker. I just refused to go.

    Otherwise, I would have felt "taken".

    - Friar

  7. Friar: Oh my gosh! We are definitely going to have to find you another job. They wanted you to PAY for your own Christmas dinner, plus use your own vacation time? Sheesh, I don't blame you for not attending. Yeah, you definitely would have gotten taken. Not to criticize your workplace, but that is really pathetic. And no, you don't fit the example of the Taker. They do. I feel a new post coming on...workplace horror stories.

  8. Randi,

    The skill of your articles always amazes me anew. There is always the fascinating premise, or the challenging question; always the anecdote that places it in real life; always the full delineation of choices and reactions; always a conclusion supported by example. Wow!

    You describe so well one of the more pernicious viewpoints fostered in our society -- that we somehow "deserve" the good things of life, not as the fruit of our labor but as entitlements. And I like how you show that this undermines not only our incentive to earn but our appreciation of what is given to us in generosity.

    I really like this one, Randi.


  9. Robert: I am so glad you stopped by. You presence always adds a lot to this site. Thank you so much for being extremely generous with your compliments. They are much appreciated and I always take them to heart, hoping that they help turn me into a better writer.

    Yes, teaching our children to feel entitled is one of the biggest disservices we can do. People who feel entitled rarely feel happy, because always there will be someone who owes them something, or someone who disappointed them because they didn't give them enough. Truly sad.

    Thanks for popping by on your vacation!

  10. Oh, very good! 'Seems I've been both but would much prefer to be just one. Giving is so good for the soul.

    Enjoyed your post on the Osmonds.

    I never liked him myself (Donny)...until he called me one evening to personally invite me to his show in Nottingham. He wanted me to bring my family and share some private time in his dressing room before the performance.

    He was so impressed with my son who was serving a mission with his son in the Shetland Isles, that he wanted to meet the parents.

    We had a great laugh...especially when my daughter did something outrageous and impulsive...I'll post the photo that explains it all.

  11. Randi, I tagged you for a question meme in my post today. Only play along if you have the time :) I know that you're busy!!!

  12. Ken:I'll bet that was fun to go backstage and share some fun times. It's nice that Donny wanted to meet you. Your son must have been a good example for his missionary companion's father to want to meet you. I can't wait to see what outrageous thing your daughter did!

    septembermom: I'll check out your meme. Thanks for tagging me!

  13. I'm away on staycation for a week and come back to find you rocking the house! What a Biggie this one was!

    I grew up in a mining village where no-one could afford to buy a home of their own.I got out when I went to university. At that time, our government paid for all of my eduation because my family couldn't afford to. I accepted that opportunity with gratitude and without a moment's guilt. I went on to become a teacher, an empowerer and an enabler, and in my own way have helped others escape some of the vicious circles that can happen as a result of working class financial hardship and a lack of education.

    The give and take can happen between generations. We pay higher taxes than my dad ever did because of our income; I'm happy that my dad, at 84, has access to the free national health care that he contributed to when he was working, and which we're supporting now. He worked hard, paid all his stamps and taxes and never missed a day's work in his life.

    Difficult as it is, sometimes 'takers' are giving us the greatest gifts of all; the chance to practise compassion, the perspective to see what we value and the determination to do what we think is right for ourselves and our families.It doesn't mean we have to approve.

    Holiday in the Carribean?! I'd be the one hugging the boss, dancing around and shrieking "Yay!" I'm not sure if that makes me a giver or just desperate for a seaside holiday!

  14. Janice: That's the main difference between a giver and a taker. You had your education financed but as you said, "I accepted that opportunity with gratitude and without a moment's guilt." Gratitude is the key element. You also used your education to help others.

    When I was pregnant with Jeremiah, I had a blood clot in my lung. When I went to the hospital, they asked me how I planned on paying the bill. I said I would work to pay it off, since I had no insurance at the time. They sent in a Medicaid representative who tried to get me to sign up. I refused at first, but the lady finally said, "Have you worked all your life?" I said "Yes, ever since age 16. I just barely moved to Utah, don't have a job yet, which is why I have no insurance."

    She said, "So you've spent your entire adult life contributing to the system so that OTHERS can have medical help, but you just won't accept it for yourself? Why don't you look at it as you are just getting back what you already paid into the system."

    When she worded it like that, and because I knew I couldn't afford the $4000 a month for my blood thinner alone, I agreed. I was extremely grateful because I knew it was the only way my son and I would live. There are times when we all need to rely on others, the difference lies in whether we expect and demand help, or whether we accept it with thankfulness and give back when we can. In the case of your father, it's just the case of givers giving to another giver.

    I especially loved your point about takers inspiring compassion in us. I think--especially in my own case!-- it can inspire patience in us! When I've been around people in the workplace, such as I described in the "takers" section, it causes me to stop and try to be cognizant of their situation, lest I blurt out what I am really thinking, which is something along the lines of, "You ungrateful bunch of whiners!" :)

  15. I would definitely say I am a giver. I love to give of myself to help others in any way I can. I think that being this way is something you have inside. I did not have the best childhood and had responsibility at an early age, but yet I wanted to please my parents and do well in school without anyone telling me. My older daughter is a giver like me and my younger one is more of a taker, though I would like for her to be a giver. For her, it is more like what can I get out of this or what is in it for me? I have not raised her up to be like this, but this seems to be her nature. I am still working on her though, she does have her "giving" moments.

    Great post! Thank you.

  16. Ana: I have noticed that most of the people whose websites I haunt, including yours, are Givers. That's what makes them so valuable, I think. The bloggers give advice, instruction, new insight, or sometimes good old fashioned humor. I was kind of like that as a child too. I was annoyingly good. Just ask my Auntie M--ha ha ha! Being responsible and doing well was always just something that I "knew."
    I noticed the title of your latest post today so I'll have to head over there and check it out. Looks good!

  17. Randi,
    I really liked this post. I found myself in all categories. I also found myself feeling guilty for being a taker in so many ways. Thanks for the guilt trip! I have to admit that I love reading all the comments too.. Thanks for the invite!

  18. Super Sandy: Sorry, my dear, but I definitely have you identified with the Givers. You are always looking out for others and doing thoughtful things. I'm raining on that guilt trip right now!

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