Is Giving Really Better Than Receiving?

And if it is, why is it so hard to motivate ourselves to care about others?

For me, there is no doubt that I would rather give than receive. Giving is easier. It feels good and doesn't bruise my ego.  Admitting I need help is really hard to do and I resist it, even when I shouldn't.

I suspect that this aversion to being seen as weak is instinctual. My son has a physical disability that makes it hard for him to do fine motor skill tasks, like zipping up a jacket. As a result, he won’t zip his up, even when it is really cold out. Also, if he is zipped up, he won’t take off his jacket when he is inside and gets warm because his fear that when he needs his jacket again, he won’t be able to put it on properly is so great, he would rather be uncomfortable than admit that he could use some help.

I think another reason why it’s better to give rather than receive has to do with our focus. When we are receiving, our focus is on ourselves. Whenever our focus is on ourselves, we isolate ourselves from others. It is only when we focus outward on others that we are connected to others and that is a hugely important feeling to have for our emotional well-being. We are, after all, social animals.  Giving, especially giving without expectation of reciprocity (which is focusing on our own needs), connects us to others and helps us feel secure as a result. So giving in this way is far superior to receiving.

So, the question is – how can we motivate ourselves to give more, to others we don’t know and how can we be less afraid to admit when we ourselves need help?

I think the answer is to understand that by accepting help, you are allowing others to give. And the more you are willing to accept help, the easier it is to see and understand the benefits of helping others.  I don’t know if there is any research on this, but I know that the more I accept help when I truly need it and am afraid to admit it, the more my sense of gratitude compels me to give to others in need when I can.  It probably has to do with our innate sense of reciprocity and justice. Again, someone should study this dynamic.

The point is, if you are having a hard time motivating yourself to care about others, stop trying to force it.  Instead, focus on admitting to yourself that you are not an island and allow people to help you when you need it. You just may find that whatever  philosophic or emotional hurdle was preventing you from truly reaching out to others in compassion is less of a problem. It’s worth a try anyway.

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