Are you a giver or a taker?

Are you a giver or a taker?

Do you seek to work with others to increase their and your own
happiness? Are you generous, helpful, open? Or are you instead worried
about making sure you get what you deserve, seeking to get ahead even
if it’s at the expense of others?

We are constantly being told that “looking out for number one” is the loftiest goal, that we should put ourselves first, and maybe those closest to us. That it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there, and that seeking to maximize how well off we are is the highest goal.

But what if there’s a different way to approach life? What if instead of being worried and scared and on-alert about being cheated all the time, we instead default to being generous and helpful? This doesn’t mean letting others take advantage of us, but it does mean that until proven otherwise, we assume the stranger among us is kind and has good intentions, just like we do.

It might seem safer to assume the worst, but look deeper. The great enterprises of humanity have been advanced by people working together towards a common goal. We see this when different groups in societies start working together to overcome a shared problem. We see this when companies, organizations, churches, community groups take on big projects. Taking the risk to trust others usually pays off. True, sometimes it doesn’t and bad things happen, but those bad things happen much less often than if we never trust at all.

Listen, maybe you have good reasons for being closed and distrustful, for seeking to get all you can get. Maybe people have cheated you in the past. Maybe you see others around you living in ease when you are working your butt off just to get by. That’s awful and I’m sorry. But if you continue reacting in this closed way, your story is not likely to change. If you reach out to others and build connections by communicating and helping, many of those connections will wind up helping you.

I won’t lie: being a giver is scary, because there are takers out there who will do their best to elbow you out of their way or even cheat you. It’s not fair. But do you want to join them and do that to others? Or do you want to reach out to other givers and work together to build something that benefits all of us? How do you want to live?

I hope you will be a giver. And I hope that you will be suspicious of those takers who try to convince you that everyone is a taker and that you should be, too. They’re takers, after all: what’s in it for them when they tell you that?

Givers are out there. Nobody can be a perfect giver all the time: sometimes they, too, fall back on habits of distrust, maybe for a good reason, maybe not. But that’s alright — they just pick themselves up and keep trying to help those around them, to be welcoming and cooperative. They know that sometimes takers will take advantage of them and that will hurt; but they also know that by reaching out, they can find and work with other givers to build something bigger, better than they can by themselves.

Won’t you join us?