Friday, 4 January 2013

Where giving is taking

Most of us know how to balance give and take in a social setting - we even have a useful cliché for it. However, as with all matters human there is a question of balance, a need to know where those ever-subtle boundaries lie.

Some tend to take more than they give, others tend to give more than they take. Yet there are problematic people who always prefer to give - won't take no for an answer. Usually they are not a huge problem where they merely provide a necessary social balance to the takers. These are the people we call generous - but sometimes it goes too far and nobody else is allowed to give.

I’ve known one or two people who not only prefer to give, but absolutely must be the primary giver. It’s not common in my experience, but there are people who cannot be induced to play the game of give and take without a considerable amount of pressure. Even then the usual balance ends up skewed.

The people I'm thinking of pushed giving too far, to a point where they became upset, petulant or even angry if thwarted in their need to be the alpha-giver.

The main person I’m thinking of passed away years ago, so I’m not raking over live issues here, but she had to be the giver, hogging all the available outlets for those minor acts of material generosity. Because it's usually material generosity in my experience - not so much emotional generosity.

It seems to me that this is what it amounts to – hogging those little acts of material generosity we all value. Paying for a round of drinks and so forth - we know what's involved. Most of us know we have to allow others their share of generosity, but some just don’t get it - and it's not just the takers.

I’m reminded of the problem every time Christmas comes round, particularly big Christmas parties which now lie in my distant past. I enjoyed them – that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that attendance was virtually compulsory – as one year I found out to my cost.

Part of growing up I suppose.


Anonymous said...

"The problem was that attendance was virtually compulsory – as one year I found out to my cost."

Oh, come on, AK, thereby hangs a juicy domestic tale of tears before bedtime - you can't just leave us in suspence!

Sam Vega said...


Those who give more than their "share", and don't allow others to give: surely they are merely sophisticated takers.

They take up too much room, and too much of the giving. They are - like all takers - putting their own needs above those of others.

I think there is a need for us to be better receivers. I like the (American) habit of acknowledging thanks with "You're welcome". Or the (more English) phrase "My pleasure". Because it does give us pleasure to give, doesn't it, and it is well to acknowledge that.

James Higham said...

The patriarch of the family tends to be like this.

A K Haart said...

David - it wasn't dramatic, just another lesson learned.

Sam - they are covert takers, and I agree with you about the acknowledgement.

James - yes it is.