Is it better to give or receive



With the holidays being weeks away, Columnist Drew Hill talks more about what the holidays should really be.

DREW HILL, Opinion Columnist

One popular Bible verse to quote around Christmas time says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” However, during the Christmas season, it is fair to ask the question of whether it is really better to give than to receive. There is a lot of giving, but a lot of getting happens too. In a free-market system that focuses so heavily on consumers, it can be easy to lose sight of the truth about giving.

 In a survey conducted by the Northern Iowan with ten young adults and students on the UNI campus, I asked two questions: “Is it better to give or receive?” and “Is it more fun to give or receive?” As one might expect, giving was the nearly unanimous answer to the first question, with only Respondent Five suggesting both could be equally important. However, the second question was more equally divided, with five choosing receiving as more fun, four choosing giving, and Respondent Five again saying both. This suggests that most people see giving as the more noble of the two actions, but are divided on which brings more happiness.

One reason giving is viewed as superior is because it is more altruistic, or focused on others. Receiving seems selfish. However, as Respondent Five points out, receiving has an important place as well. For every gift, someone has to receive it. If a person is in need, it is important for them to be willing to receive.

Even though most agree that giving is better than receiving, many saw receiving as the more enjoyable option. Giving seems to be something you should do, while receiving is something you want to do.

However, there are also real benefits to giving, including enjoyment, which could be viewed as better than those of receiving. An article in The Guardian by James Randerson discussed a study on giving. The study found that people who received large bonuses were happier when they spent some on others than those who spent the money on themselves. The study suggested that making more money didn’t cause a person to be much happier. Rather, building relationships and finding purpose were more important, and giving served to help people in those areas more than spending money on themselves.

Another way in which giving is beneficial is the law of reciprocity. Shep Hyken, a speaker on customer service, points out that when you give, people often respond by giving back to you. Another old saying states, “The more you give, the more you get.” Zig Ziglar, a motivational speaker, said, “You will get all you want in life if you help other people get what they want.” This is true in both personal life and in business. That is why you see so many companies offer free samples, free trials, and free versions for products and services. If someone does something for you, you are more likely to want to do something for them. Companies may also donate to charities or allow employees to donate to charities through their companies to give back to the community and help employees and customers feel like they are part of something bigger.

Respondent Three mentioned how the community had given to him and he felt a responsibility to give back. Respondent Six mentioned that one should give as part of the Golden Rule, doing unto others as you want them to do unto you. Several suggested giving was better because of the responses of the people who received. Respondent Eight suggested that giving is rewarding and feels like an accomplishment. These responses show people see that giving enhances relationships in a way that receiving does not. That is a key reason to give. It will build your relationships with others.

However, the biggest benefit of giving is what it does for people’s focus. In many ways, it feels like people today focus so much on money or technology that they may lose sight of others or their relationships with them. Giving creates a focus on others. That is a benefit, as it takes one’s mind off their own interests and problems. Giving with no strings attached when you don’t expect something back is an act of kindness, which is something we need more of today.

If receiving and giving gifts this year, remember that although receiving is necessary, the old saying remains true. It is better to give than to receive.