Becoming a 'Giver'

August 4, 2011 | by

I’ve been married now for almost a year and my wife is starting to get impatient. He says that I’m selfish and don’t know how to give. I see that in many ways she is right. I grew up in a very privileged lifestyle, where everything was provided on a silver platter. I was always on the receiving end.

Now I’m afraid my marriage won’t survive if I don’t change my approach. Please help.

The Aish Rabbi Replies

The "need to give" is a basic part of human nature.

Imagine being born into great wealth and given a monthly allowance of $10,000. You'd never have to work a day in your life. You could play golf, go shopping, travel, lie on the beach. Everything easy, everything given to you. Sounds like "the good life," doesn't it?!

Actually, it's not. Because after awhile, a person would get tired of "taking" all the time. He'd feel worthless and irrelevant. Feelings begin to take hold: What's my contribution? What can I do to help?

The Talmud says there are four types of people "who are considered dead even while they are alive." The common denominator of these people is that (due to circumstantial limitations) they are unable to give.

Giving is the foundation of any relationship. When two people are focused on giving to one another, then the relationship flows in two directions – connecting, linking and forging the bond. But when both are focused on taking, then the dynamic is pulling in opposite directions – creating strain and tension.

In Israel, the Dead Sea is famous as the lowest point on planet Earth (396 meters below sea level). That means water flows into the Dead Sea but no water ever flows out. This inability to "give" is why it's called the Dead Sea. (It’s no coincidence that Sodom – the paradigm of selfishness – is located next to the Dead Sea.)

So in practicality, how do you become a "giver?" The answer is simple: Start giving. Some people say "I can only give to someone that I love." This is incorrect. The Hebrew word for "give" is hav. It is the same root as ahava, which means "love." The Jewish idea is that giving is what leads to love. When you give to another, you invest part of yourself. The recipient then become more precious to you. This is why parents love their children most of all; it is their greatest investment.

So my advice is to start giving. Flowers, washing dishes, a glass of tea, a concerned phone call. Before long, these acts of giving will turn you into a genuine giver!


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