It’s Easier to Give Than to Receive, But Not Necessarily Better


How many times have you heard, “It’s better to give than receive?” It’s so ingrained in our culture, we don’t even question it.

If you are in a leadership role, chances are you believe this wholeheartedly. Which means you also probably believe you should

always be competent,

never make mistakes,

and always be strong.

And likely you believe you should only receive when you have something to give in exchange.

One problem with this attitude is that when you are in a situation where you don’t have a choice and must receive, you are likely to feel




because it challenges your self-image.

It is easier to give than to receive, but not necessarily better. Allowing others to help you is a sign of strength, not weakness.

9 reasons it’s good to receive

  1. It reminds you that you’re not in charge.
  2. It keeps you humble.
  3.  You allow others the opportunity to feel the pleasure of giving.
  4.  You get to experience gratitude.
  5.  You develop a realistic self-image.
  6.  You create a space for others to shine.
  7.  You begin to understand what strength really is.
  8.  You become a more well-rounded person.
  9.  Your relationships become richer.

It is also good to give, especially when you are not looking for something in exchange. That is the true spirit of generosity.

But helping others when they can help themselves is NOT an act of generosity. It takes away their power, opportunity for growth, and keeps them dependent.

What’s important is knowing when to give and when to receive.

There’s a time to give and a time to receive. When it’s your time to receive, just say, “Thank you.” And allow yourself to feel the precious gift of gratitude that naturally arises.



Note: A version of this post originally appeared at The Leadership Freak Blog December 2011.


22 comments to It’s Easier to Give Than to Receive, But Not Necessarily Better

  • I’ve always struggled with receiving. I’m a giver.

    Though #3 has changed the feelings I’ll have the next time someone does something for me.


  • Powerful message, thank you. it works in business and in life as general. Such proverbs “better to give than to recieve” has instilled a culture that make people to reject the gosbel of grace, the good news that they are forgiven, that Jesus freely gave up his life for us.For us is just to recieve that gift. But it is hard for most people to just recieve this gift, they often think that there must be an exchange of some sort.

    God Bless you for highliting this; better to give than to recieve but not necessarily better!

  • I think Steve is in a league of many. I am still learning to receive. It is funny because I know the feeling I enjoy having from having the privilege to be able to give, yet I don’t allow others the room to have the same experience by letting them do the same for me. I am getting better at it, but I do believe I can be better at it (receiving).

    • Glad to hear you’re working on it, Thabo. Feeling uncomfortable when on the receiving end is such a pervasive attitude that seems to transcend gender and nationality. Keep practicing, because it’s like developing any new skill or muscle. It feels uncomfortable at first, but the more we practice, the easier it gets. And the reward is worth the effort.

  • Mahmood

    But helping others when they can help themselves is NOT an act of generosity. It takes away their power, opportunity for growth, and keeps them dependent.

    You read my mind

    Thank you

  • Helen Antebi

    Jesse, thanks for this wisdom. I have been noticing recently the increase in various books and blogs about the power of giving and the notion has made me uncomfortable as it feels forced and insincere; it’s become a marketing strategy. Giving and receiving work for me when they are acts of sincerity and generosity, without obligation, simply about kindness and sharing, which means we need to be vulnerable. I am currently experimenting with asking for help and sharing my challenges with those I would not have previously, and so far so good, although I suspect I’ve a lot of practice ahead of me:)

    • Hi Helen, Thanks for sharing your insight. I think the issue is when giving becomes transactional, we start tallying up who owes and how much. My own experience is that when I am open to receiving, help often arises from unexpected places. I also appreciate your pointing out the important connection with vulnerability. Here’s an interesting thought to contemplate: real strength allows us to be vulnerable.

  • Alex Dail

    Often when I don’t want help it is a pride issue. Pride does not help with leadership as it makes a person blind to the value in others.

  • This is a powerful and insightful article. Thank you.

  • An inspiring post Jesse – thank you. I’m working on being able to receive graciously. As a leader, having the humility in strength to receive from the team is a gift in itself to them.

  • fay kandarian

    You say this so well – thanks for the lovely reminder.

  • Jesse, you referenced this older (yet timeless) post in one I read today, and I wanted to share something I learned along the way.
    I always got a charge out of making a positive difference or contribution to another person. Years back I realized and declared that that is actually my life’s purpose. Later on I came to believe that if we drill down deep enough, others come to realize that is their purpose too – or at the least they like how it feels.

    Then, one day it ocurred to me that when I allow others to make a contribution to me, they feel good about having done that. Especially when I thank them or acknowledge them. Said another way, my allowing others to contribute to me is also a contribution to them! Now I try to be mindful of giving others that opportunity. And everyone wins.

    • Well said, Lowell. I started to laugh as I imagined a large group of people who all believed it was their purpose to give and therefore had no one to give to. I imagined them chasing each other around trying to give, maybe tossing it back and forth. And then I realized that is what actually happens in real life… not so obviously and dramatically.. but so often people give to each other without understanding what the other person really wants or needs. I think the key is understanding the nuance of what is needed in each situation. As you point out, sometimes receiving IS giving. Thanks for adding to the conversation!

      • I agree: what the other person really needs, what would be supportive right then and there – is key.

        The scene you imagine is pretty funny, too. And now that you created it, I’m going for living in that context: Everyone wants to contribute. Feels good.

  • VERY Thought provoking post Jesse. Thank you!!

    • Jesse Lyn Stoner Jesse Lyn Stoner

      So glad you enjoyed it, Chery. I imagine you’re having a lot of opportunity to experience the joys of giving and receiving in your current travels. Wishing you the best. ~Jesse

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>