Give And Take


I’ve become painfully aware of late, that this world is comprised of givers and takers. I suppose there may be another third group, that is more balanced but then again, maybe not.

I don’t know if it’s always been this way and I just never really noticed or if it’s something that has evolved over the last couple of decades but it seems more pronounced these days, more obvious. And it seems to me, that the takers are gaining on us.

Take something as simple as courtesy on the road. We’ve all heard of rules of the road (or at least, I hope we’ve all heard of them) and it isn’t so much about traffic laws as it is courtesy. You let another driver in when they’re stuck trying to get out of driveway, wave someone through ahead of you even if you have the right of way, or in the reverse, tip your hat, nod your head or wave or something if another driver has done the same for you. It’s not a big deal, but it makes a difference.

I’ve literally had people try to run me off the road rather than yield to my merging into a lane, even when I had the right of way. Everday, as I stop at a stop sign and another driver arrives at the same time, that driver only pauses and when they see I’m actually stopping, just slide through the stop without so much as a blink. The list is endless – and really this post isn’t about how other people drive.

It’s more about the attitude. It is as though there are some people out there who just feel they are entitled to anything and everything they get. They don’t feel obliged in any way to return the favor. And sometimes, they seem to expect it. The co-worker who expects you to cover their lunch because they haven’t the money but wouldn’t dream of lending you a five-spot. The friend who calls you at all hours to cry on your shoulder, who borrows clothes and never returns them, who always shows up at your house around dinnertime but who is often busy when you need something. The boss who expects to be able to call you on your day off to discuss some business issue but doesn’t think they should pay you, and who gets uptight if you dare to call them at home. The parent who demands you demonstrate your love to them constantly but can’t help you out when you’re in need or trouble.

And I suppose the givers are duplicitous in these acts because they cooperate. They give. They are happy to help out. Don’t have the heart to hang up on a sobbing friend, or deny lunch to them. Will bend over backwards to show their love and nurture parents, children and spouses. Because they are givers. That is the way they are wired. Right? So, why shouldn’t they be taken advantage of? Why shouldn’t the takers take what the givers give? It’s the way the food chain works, isn’t it?

Is it? I wonder. I’ve had a few serious takers in my life. And there is no pleasing them. No matter what you do for them it isn’t enough. No matter how hard you try it just isn’t hard enough. No matter how much you give they still seem to need more. You could literally have a personality transplant and remake yourself according to their specs and still be wrong. It’s exhausting.

And I’ve found whenever I go through a particularly exhausting period in my life that I am surrounded by these folks. I am swarming with them. I am the proverbial puppet on a string. My life becomes dedicated to doing for them and going without. And I have to ask myself why? Why the hell do I do it? What puts me in that place? Is it just my general good nature, am I too nice, care too much, just want people to like me? I suppose it is all of the above and none of the above. I mean, how does one find the balance? I don’t really like fighting back, so to speak. It doesn’t do anything for me personally – truth be told I don’t really like conflict. I like life to be easy going and fun. I don’t want to be an accountant, forever tallying what others owe me or I them. Or scolding people for taking advantage either of me or others. It’s just not my thing.

I suppose in the long run my solution is to just cut my losses and move on – it’s not easy though. In fact, it’s damned hard – everyone seems connected in one way or another. That 6 degrees of separation thing, you know? In the end, I just end up putting up with it. Try not to get too god-awful sucked dry of life and resources and look for better friends – sometimes with success, sometimes not.

How about you? What do you do with these people? I’m curious what everyone else’s take is on this.


10 thoughts on “Give And Take

  1. My mother-in-law tells my daughters, “People will only do to you what you let them.”
    I realize this bit of wisdom doesn’t apply to the numerous assholes we all deal with in traffic but it’s sound advice for day to day interaction with people.
    IMHO, sometimes I think we prefer to take the path of least resistance. That’s where much of the proverbial emotional shit hits the fan.
    Hey Mikey,
    I think you’re right about that. We choose path of least resistance and then the shit does hit the fan. Maybe if we stop resisting resisting things would not be so weird in the first place. 😉


  2. I think there are times in my life when I’m just an asshole magnet. No other explanation fits.
    I think the culprit is my uterus trying to get just one more in during the waning months of it’s usefulness.
    Great writing, as always!

    Hmm, we may suffer from the same mutant gene, Laurie, as I am a world class loser magnet. I never connected it to the death throes of the uterus before, but I think you may be onto something. 😆


  3. I have been walking around this post for a couple of times now. I am definitely a giver and sometimes I hate it. Let me explain.
    My way of thinking is that with giving in the end there will some taking from my side as well.
    This is not often the point and I have had another look at it.
    If I give, I give because of the giving. Nothing more nothing less. No strings attached, no expectations. AND it so happens that I give also when I have strings attached and one or more expectations. This is fine for a little while but then something happens. The giving that comes natural disappears and suddenly it feels like WORK. Really hard work and no fun anymore.
    So if I feel that the giving is becoming work, I rearrange the giving and if that does not work then I stop it.
    About the people not being friendly, I see that in Europe too with the people on bike and in cars ignoring the rules. I am still following the rules my self and live it so. That feels good for me. May be the others ones will in the end get the point too and stop behaving as they do. It could be a puberish (does that communicate?) phase in their life, sometimes rather late, and it could pass.
    One last thing I also got that most people will not directly ask me to give something. I will presume they need it and give it. This has changed. I kind of wait for the invitation more often and see what happens: Other people begin giving. I am of the hook.
    I love the chocolate bunnies, nice post.
    Hey Miriam,
    You nailed it – when the giving begins to feel like work. That’s the point where I start to go off my nut. I like your idea of waiting to be invited to help – good strategy and one I may borrow. Thanks for the thoughtful comments.


  4. I’ve been told I have a label on my forehead that says, “Pushover” or “Doormat”. You’re right, WC, life is full of takers and givers…And the as I thought about this, sometimes I don’t think takers realize they are takers. (And we are all takers at some point….)
    Anyway, I’ve learned that the reason I give– or help people, it’s not for the satisfaction of doing so, but because I -want- to. I like to think, more hope, that it is in our better natures to do the right thing. Sure, it’s exhausting…especially when you feel taken advantage of, but I think I’d rather be the one taken advantage of than doing the advantage-ing…(I just made up a word.)
    At the same time, of course it’s not alright to be taken over and stomped all over…In this case, you know– I could always break knee caps for you. I know people. I know people who know people who have people. *Grin*
    I appreciate you, WC, and all the encouragement you have given to me. I don’t think you know how much it means, and maybe I should do a better job of that.
    Your Friend,

    Hey Kenz,
    I agree, often times the giving feels good and we do it because we want to. I think the thing I was talking about more are the ones who take incessantly and never really give back. Those I think do know they are takers and take with greed and delight – their only consternation coming when they realize the gig is up.

    You know people who know people, eh? Yeah, I could use that from time to time. I’ll keep you posted.

    And I think we both mutually appreciate our friendship – knowing you has been my pleasure.


  5. “I don’t want to be an accountant”
    Actually I am an accountant and in the line of this discussion had a call from a friend once that was facing tremendous business problems (which ultimately resulted in him closing it in the form it was in at the time). Included in that problem was some back liability to the Bureau of Workers Compensation which was around $12,000. I told him I would attend a couple meetings on the matter with him and the short side of a longer story is I arranged it so he wouldn’t have to pay the $12,000 (which he didn’t have). Of course I didn’t charge him for my time because he was a friend, in need, and lacked resources.
    A very short time latter I had a small maintenance problem at my home and called him since it was his specific area of expertise. I explained the problem, which would take about 15 minutes max, to fix, but he very nicely explained to me in a very gracious tone that he was very sorry but was too busy to give me a QUOTE. ……. Next Stop Lauderdale

    Hey Steve,
    Doesn’t that crap just stop you dead in your tracks? Dang. Clearly, you were a better friend to him than he to you. Sometimes it takes a situation to learn these things. Next time your chum calls when he’s in a pickle, have your receptionist take a message. 😉


  6. i seem to remember you doing a post similar awhile back. i hope you aren’t getting sucked in by a taker now… i do agree though, i am like you. i will please and please and let people get mad at me for what i know is no apparent reason, and then i will stress over how to get them to not be mad anymore. it’s stupid, when it gets this bad, that is the time to walk away. . quickly.

    I don’t know if I did a similar post, it could be I am repeating myself. Maybe this situtation required more words???

    Yes, walk away quickly and don’t look back.


  7. It’s just people and their agendas. Shmi Skywalker says that the biggest problem in the universe is that nobody helps others. It’s partly true, but most people are just leeches who take and take and take. If they do do one thing for you, they expect yet another favor in return.

    I know it’s easy to feel that way, DT – but I do believe there are a lot more givers out there. Still, you have to find a way not to let people walk all over you. It’s a fine balance I think.


  8. W.H. Auden says:
    “We are here on earth to do good for others.
    What the others are here for, I don’t know.”
    And living up to the advice a wise friend of mine who once gave me by saying “don’t take anything that has been written before you as written in stone, no matter how wise or applauded they may seem, always try and add your personal improvement to it”, I will rewrite this to:
    “We are here in this world to do good for others as that will do good for us. What the others are here for, I don’t know”.

    Nice, Spaz. I like it . 😉


  9. On Memorial Day, coming out of the WhiteHen Pantry (convenience store) lead by my daughter and her friend; the man infront of them opened the door to let himself out and DID not hold the door for them, it slammed in their little faces and they had their hands full of treaties. I opened the door and yelled, “What a GENTLEMAN!” and he turned and looked at me like, “Wha?” DUH! I am a woman and I hold doors for men, if need be. It’s ‘effn courtesy! Maybe these folks were raised in a barn is all I can think? I have been educated on “Boundaries” by reading the book titled “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud & John Townsend – Amazon, real cheap and you can also get the workbook. It’s all about learning to respect yourself and to set up boundaries (how to say yes, how to say no, and mean it, – with NO guilt whatsoever…etc). I try to live by it but every once and a while; some creepy selfish person will crop up and I feel the need to re-read that book. Best money I have ever spent. I wish I could buy a copy for every person that I know and love.

    I can always count on you to cut through the crap, Bella. Sounds like a great book.


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