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Do You Give Freely?

My dad is someone who has given even when he knew it might not turn out so great.  When I’ve asked him why, his answer has always been, “How can I not?”  When a person asks for your help, you help them.

My uncle recently did the same thing.   Someone he hadn’t heard from in years called and asked for help.  My uncle said that he felt he needed to do it – despite the fact that he didn’t expect to be re-paid and the high probability that this person would “disappear” once again.

When you consider giving, do you think about the times when that person didn’t pay you back?  Do you feel resentment?  Do you give again anyway?

We also give what can’t be paid back in the same way you would replace onions, tea and potatoes.  We give of our time, for example.  What about equality, fairness, feeling important, listening, sharing, intimacy?  We give of ourselves in so many emotional ways.

What if the other person doesn’t reciprocate the intangibles?

I think that’s harder than loaning money or your favorite casserole dish and not getting it back.  That’s just money, just stuff.  But feeling as though you don’t matter to someone who matters to you, that is much harder to bear.

Does it make me a bad person to want repayment?  It seems only fair that, if I give you ten dollars, you will repay that loan.  It seems only natural that, if I give you my love, my time and my commitment, that I should receive those things back from you.  I’ve had people in my life that would not (or could not) “pay me back” emotionally.  But I can only give so much without being fulfilled myself, and then I have to let go.

Does that make me a bad person?  Or is letting that person go simply an act of self-preservation?

Letting go doesn’t always mean cutting that person completely out of my life.  Sometimes I can just step back a bit and re-evaluate my own emotional investment.  After all, there are many different levels of friendship and intimacy.  But that leads me to another question.  Am I only willing to give as much as I get back?  And still further, am I giving as much as I think I am?  Or is it possible that I am the one who is not giving as much as I receive?

Do we really give people our love, our care and our friendship?  Or are we actually just loaning them out?  If I love, without receiving love in return, will my love eventually starve into non-existence?  Likewise, if I do not nurture the love that is given to me, will I kill it from neglect?

What do we get from giving freely?  In the case of my Nannie, she gave without the expectation of repayment.  In his turn, Burt gave freely back to her.  And that was worth everything.

And are we able to gain payment from the act itself? 

If you volunteer, what do you gain from that?  Do you get a feeling of accomplishment, of self-worth, of satisfaction that you made a difference?  If you care for a child, an elderly person or someone who is ill, do you do it only because you have to?  Or is it enough to be needed and to know you’re important – even vital – to another person’ s existence, even if they are not able to tell you or show you.  Isn’t that a form of emotional payment?  Isn’t that a payment you make to yourself?

Skip on over:

To give or not to give?


12 Comments Post a comment
  1. skippingstones #

    Just by chance I happened to be watching Field Of Dreams tonight:

    Ray: I have done everything I’ve been asked to do – I didn’t understand it, but I’ve done it! And I haven’t once asked what’s in it for me!

    Shoeless Joe: What are you saying, Ray?

    Ray: I’m saying (pause) ‘What’s in it for me?’

    Shoeless Joe: Is that why you did this? For you?

    Ray: silence (and maybe a little bit of an ashamed look)

    May 15, 2011
  2. Vicki Manuel #

    That is why I wrote I don’t know on your FB comment.
    I would like to think that I give freely. If someone asks for a couple dollars I give it to them for nothing in return, but I don’t go out of my way to help someone. It seems that I think it will just bite me in the butt. I’d rather give them a couple of dollars and never seem them again then to help them myself. Maybe it comes down to trusting people.

    May 15, 2011
    • skippingstones #

      That’s a good point – the butt biting thing. There is something to that, feeling vulnerable when you give, and not wanting to get too involved. I learned at 14 that my friends aren’t always my friends. And I’ve had to learn that lesson multiple times, unfortunately. When you give emotionally to the wrong person, it can end up devastating you. That can happen financially, too.

      May 16, 2011
  3. Yes, I can say unequivocally that feeling emotionally needed is a payment I make to myself. I don’t always think of it in those terms, but when I look back on times when I’ve been kind and thought I was being purely selfless, I almost always see exactly how much I gained from my good deed.

    There have been times when I’ve given too much, to the point that it was hurting me to do so. I knew the mistake I was making, yet I STILL couldn’t stop myself because giving in excess satisfied some inner yearning I couldn’t stifle, which is to say that I was satisfying an innate need even as I was hurting myself in the process.

    It’s a complicated question (as you know, of course 🙂 ). I can’t rule out the possibility of pure selflessness, but it’s hard to isolate the motivations in any act and say which acts are genuinely altruistic.

    Last I’ll say is that as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to view giving more as an exchange, with implied conditions, than I did in the past. That mentality is a product of a lot of experiences.

    May 16, 2011
    • skippingstones #

      I loved your response! I didn’t consider giving too much of yourself, but it definitely happens. I did think about people who continue in relationships that are clearly detrimental, but I didn’t travel that path here. I’m glad you brought it back up – sort of. You didn’t say exactly that, but I think you summed up those types of relationships. I was recently reading about the chemical releases associated with different kinds of emotions. You’ve brought that back to mind. The article said that the chemicals are addictive, and that contributes to people staying in relationships that may not actually be good for them.

      I really love this: “I STILL couldn’t stop myself because giving in excess satisfied some inner yearning I couldn’t stifle, which is to say that I was satisfying an innate need even as I was hurting myself in the process.”

      But I wonder, were you satisfying an inner need, or seeking to appease it? We (I’m generalizing here, I know) want and need to be wanted and needed, valued and cherished. When we don’t receive these things, we hold on maybe longer than we should, waiting for these affirmations of our worth, hoping they will come. Maybe it was a little of each.

      Or…maybe you’re just a glutton for punishment 🙂 !

      You’re right, it is a complicated question. I think I like those the best.

      In the end, you said it best: “…it’s hard to isolate the motivations in any act” period. That’s what makes these questions complicated – because there is no solid answer. Each situation is different, each individual is different, each relationship is different, etc, etc. Oh, but I love to ask!

      May 16, 2011
      • You can certainly include me in that generalization. I (and I think most people) do want and need to be wanted and needed.

        I can be a glutton for punishment, too 🙂 There’s no denying it!

        You said, “Oh, but I love to ask!” I love that you love to ask :). Oh, the joys of philosophy. In moments like this one, right now, I really miss being in college, studying whatever struck my fancy, posing questions like these endlessly and never finding definite answers, yet enjoying it all the while.

        What authors do you like reading (now or favorite authors from the past)?

        May 16, 2011
        • skippingstones #

          I don’t really have favorite writers – at least I don’t think I do. There are some series that I have enjoyed. I have to list it out:

          The guilty pleasure ones, mostly because this isn’t fantastic fiction here, but I just like them. I think it’s because they’re mysteries and I like mysteries.
          – J.D. Robb – Eve Dallas books; I like the mystery part and that it’s in the future (that’s just fun). As the series has gone on, however, I think she’s gotten mighty heavy-handed with the descriptions of her main characters. She really thinks they’re great, and I’m almost tired of reading about it. I’ve started skipping ahead a little more than seems fair, seeing as how I paid for the book and all.
          – Charlaine Harris – I liked the first vampire one, but couldn’t get into it after that. But she’s written 3 other smaller series that I really liked. Also mysteries, 1 with supernatural element (which I like – I can’t help it, it’s interesting, and the possibilities…need I say more?)
          – Jennifer Crusie – a little romance, a little adventure, maybe some mystery, but mostly I love her humor

          Pleasures, not of the guilty variety:
          Alan Bradley – Flavia de Luce mysteries – this guy is one of those writers that, I don’t know how they do it, but as soon as I start reading, I’m simply hooked. I don’t get it. There’s just something about it – it’s like slicing a knife through warm butter – just smooth reading. Maybe I just like the girl, Flavia, maybe I just enjoy her voice. She has a way about her, she’s smart, I love her brand of humor. I can’t get enough of Flavia
          Alexander McCall Smith – these are the Precious Ramotswe mysteries set in Botswana; I’ve only read the first book, and have finally just started a second. But this is another captivating character. She’s very simple and quietly wonderful. They did a series on HBO that was so fantastic. I wanted to move to Bostwana. Well…I wanted to visit.
          J. K. Rowling – Harry Potter – ok, some people would put this in the guilty section, but I really have enjoyed that series. I like the good vs. evil aspect, and how she wrapped it up. It’s just good fun, too. Broomsticks and wands and whatnot. I was hooked from the start and couldn’t get enough of it. I thought the writing was good, and the characters compelling. By the way, I called it on Snape. I love being right.
          Dave Barry & Ridley Pearson – they do a Peter Pan series that is pure adventure. It’s so great! They start with Peter and tell how he came to be Peter Pan, and they’ve thrown in some extra twists about “starstuff” (I do think they could have come up with a better name for it).
          Agatha Christie – she’s just terrific
          H. G. Wells – I love him! I first read War of the Worlds, and then The Time Machine, The Island of Dr. Moreau – all so good. I didn’t like that martian one, though. There were great parts, but I just couldn’t finish it, he lost me somewhere in the middle. But I’m working my way through as many as I can get my android on 🙂 . He has humor and irony in the short stories.
          E. L. Konigsburg – especially The View from Saturday, second is Silent To The Bone; young adult books – she is a great writer! From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – she even writes fantastic titles
          Sharon Creech – young adult books, especially love Walk Two Moons and Bloomability; heartbreaking books, I always end up crying
          Little House on the Prairie books – still love these books
          Anne of Green Gables series – and these, too
          I also like true crime and other true stories, if they are well written.

          Some Favorite Books:
          – Pride and Prejudice is my favorite book. The only number one favorite. All other favorites are number two. Some are number three. I have read this book more times than I can count, and that’s not counting how many times I’ve listened to the audio book. I think it’s just the girl in me. I get excited every time Elizabeth starts reading Darcy’s letter. I have the same anticipation every time I read it, the same payoff at the end. I don’t know why, it just is.
          – The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – Guernsey Island in the present and as it was during the German occupation (revealed in letters)
          – The Chronicles of Narnia – every last book
          – The Swiss Family Robinson – a great adventure, and informative/educational (notwithstanding the placement of penguins and ostriches on the same island, among other inconsistencies)
          – The Andromeda Strain – Michael Crichton, I just love this book, it’s kind of dry, so I’m not sure what draws me to it, but I read it once a year or so. I can’t seem to muster up any interest in reading other things he’s done, maybe because I have an idea of him as a technology thriller kind of writer and I don’t usually like that.
          – The Giver – Lois Lowry, young adult book, very interesting idea of a town that is perfect because one person holds all the memories of the past
          – Treasure Island – no explanation necessary
          – A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson

          Young Adult books:
          Gary Paulsen – Hatchet and Brian’s Winter
          Louis Sachar – Holes – so fantastic, two pasts and a present all mixed up in one story
          Katherine Paterson – Bridge to Terabithia
          Kate DiCamillo – Because of Winn-Dixie
          Elizabeth Enright – Gone-Away Lake
          Richard Peck – A Year Down Yonder
          Gail Carson Levine – Ella Enchanted & Dave At Night (love this book)
          Christopher Paul Curtis – Bud, Not Buddy
          Edward Eager – stories about magic (that mostly backfires)
          E. Nesbit – Five Children and It, etc. – see Edward Eager

          What I love about young adult fiction is that so much of it is about real emotions, growing up and finding out who you are. There seems to be more of philosophy or philosophical questioning in them than what I have found in adult books. Many of my favorites make me think in a way that adult books don’t. Maybe it’s just me and I just like kids’ books.

          This is more than I intended and less than complete, but I love books (and movies and stories in general). I’m realizing that my tastes are not very diverse. It’s mostly mystery, adventure and kids’ books.

          Still there? Maybe you gave up and just skipped to the end, LOL – I wouldn’t blame you. Either way, it’s your turn. I’m thinking you’re more smarter than I am and you’ve got the books to prove it.

          May 17, 2011
          • skippingstones #

            Damn, that’s long – it looks way longer than it did in that little box I was typing in. But that was a fun exercise!

            May 17, 2011
          • LOL! Still here. It’s OK–I’ve been posting some long responses. Yours was comprehensive. I appreciate that 🙂

            We share a few authors/books in common. I’ve always enjoyed Chrichton, though I never read The Andromeda Strain (I loved the movie when I was a kid). I LOVE Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything. I LOVE H.G. Wells. As much as I love his novels, I may enjoy his short fiction even more. There’s a wonderful complete collection of his stories that I bought a number of years ago.

            OK, I’m going to share some of my other favorites by way of recommending them to you. Given your tastes and what I can tell about your interests, I think would enjoy these authors:

            1. Jorge Luis Borges – very philosophical and conceptual. His stories are short and extremely economical. Read one (The Aleph, The Garden of Forking Paths, Funes the Memorious, etc.) and you’ll get the idea. Most can be read within ten minutes.

            2. Italo Calvino – I implore you to read at least two books: Invisible Cities and Cosmicomics. He was influenced by Borges, but he is very much his own author.

            3. Ray Bradbury – I’m guessing you read him at some point. He’s so versatile that his writing goes from science fiction (and not your typical SF, either) to “mainstream” fiction.

            4. I wonder what you would think of Virginia Woolf… For quick reads, To the Lighthouse and Mrs. Dolloway would be the way to go. To the Lighthouse is my favorite of those two, but my favorite overall is The Wave, experimental, innovative, not for everyone, but I LOVED it for its insight into what happens privately in people’s heads. Plus, her writing is beautiful.

            Well, I’ll leave it there for now. I read all over the place–science fiction, fantasy, classic lit, science, history, blah blah blah. 🙂

            May 18, 2011

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  1. To give or not to give? « Let me ask you this…
  2. To give or not to give? | Let me ask you this…
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