The Law of Giving and Receiving
John Marks Templeton


Ask not what you can expect from life;
ask what life expects from you.

Viktor Frankl

What are we going to get out of life?  This can understandably be a question of fundamental importance to us.  We begin with certain basic needs and desires.  It is important to have a comfortable home, plenty of food, a meaningful and well-paying job, comfort, companionship, and joy.  However, many of us have not fully realized a simple, basic principle:  for our receiving to take place, we must first give.  Giving and receiving are two aspects of the same law of life.

President John F. Kennedy advised Americans, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country." This is an expression of the law of giving and receiving, and it applies to everyone in our world.  For example, if we seek a certain type of employment and there are no jobs available in that area, we might see if there is some volunteer position to be found in our area of interest.  Rather than demanding of life that we receive the job we want, we ask if there is anything we can give.  Through volunteering, we gain experience and contacts, and, often, the job we've been seeking eventually becomes ours.

Lowell Fillmore shared a special thought about giving.  He said, "Those who think they have nothing to give should remember that they can always give themselves, and that they can always render some kind of service even if it be nothing more than a few words of cheer."

The gift of ourself, our time, and energy may often be one of the most important and wonderful things we can give.  On a rainy afternoon a kindly old gentleman noticed a newsboy shivering in a doorway trying to protect his papers from the rain.  As he bought a paper, the gentleman said, "My boy, aren't you terribly cold standing here?"  The boy looked up with a smile and replied, "I was, sir, before you came."

Every time an opportunity comes your way that allows you to give, welcome that opportunity with open arms!  It may be heaven's call to fulfill your highest destiny.  And the attitude of the giver may be more important than the gift itself.  It has been said, "The manner of giving is worth more than the gift."  It is often easy to forget about giving when we are constantly advised to "go for it" and "get ahead" in life.  We may become so busy taking advantage of what life has to offer that we overlook the opportunity to give back something in return.  Life's gifts that we continually benefit from are, in themselves, a good reason to develop and maintain an attitude of gratitude.  Many of us want love and companionship, but it is a law of life that we must first be loving and friendly if we would attract to us the love and companionship we desire.  We give and then we receive.  It is often true that we must first release negative attitudes and judgments about other people for our love to be given.

The law of giving and receiving also asks us to be good receivers.  As we give of ourselves, our time and resources, our positive attitudes and loving thoughts and actions, it is also important to be able to receive the gifts of others in a graceful way.  Everyone truly loves to give, and there are times when we are being of service by graciously receiving what another would give us--when we find a way to say, "Thank you, I accept your thoughtful gift."

The law of giving and receiving is basic to a life of successful and graceful living.  If we are feeling a lack in some area, our first thought could increasingly be, "What can I give?  What do I have to give?"  If we remain open and receptive, we will know how we may give.  The more we give, the more we receive.

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The essential difference between the unhappy, neurotic type
person and the happy, normal person is the difference between
get and give.  The unhappy person is concerned with:  the
world is against me, what's in it for me, what are people doing
to me, and so forth.  When your central theme in life is getting,
you usually do get headaches.  But the happy person is looking
toward what he or she can do, what they can give,
what they can accomplish.

Joe D. Batten and Leonard C. Hudson



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As Coleridge said, "We receive but what we give."  The happy life is a life
of continual generosity in which we go out to meet and acclaim the world.

Gerald Brenan