“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” – Acts 20:35
For most of my life I thought this quote was intended to make us feel guilty, meaning that it is good to be a “giver” and bad to be a “getter”. But that’s not the point of it at all. It is not intended to be some sort of do it-or-else command; rather it is offered as sage advice, the kind that we might expect from a wise elder. Since we all come into this world as infants who are capable only of getting, giving is a behavior we must learn. And the result from giving is something unexpected, that our lives will be blessed. It is one of the great paradoxes of life.
In recent years I have been on several trips into Central America to help the poor who live there. My first time to do this was probably motivated by feeling a little guilty that I had more than enough and needed to give some away. Admittedly my trip began with a bit of an Ugly American attitude, that I had much to give and the impoverished people would be grateful for my generosity. What occurred, though, was the reverse. I quickly discovered that what I had to give them paled in comparison to what they had to give me. I learned much more about generosity, friendship, sharing, and love from them than they could ever have gained from me.
The same experience holds true in my coaching business. I am often times hired to coach leadership teams and small work groups, and what I have discovered in doing so is that I learn more from them about small group dynamics than they ever gain from my expertise as a coach.
“My own experience,” according to Ken Blanchard, “about all the blessings in my life is that the more I give away, the more that comes back. That is the way life works. . . .” Simply put, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It is sage advice about one of the great paradoxes of life.