Loving Means Giving

You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving.

Dr. J. Allan Peterson, the author of several books on relationships, says that 69% of married people do not work at building their marriages. They simply take each other for granted.

He says the average husband has the attitude of “Why do you have to chase the bus once you’ve caught it.” And the average wife has the attitude of “Once you’ve caught the fish you throw away the bait.”

Unfortunately, with that little work being put into relationships, with that attitude toward relationships, it’s no wonder people grow up and find out they only have one thing in common. They just happened to be married on the same day.

At the root of so many relationship problems is the fact that so many people just stop giving to each other. Or they give the wrong things to one another.

You see it all the time–even in parent-child relationships. Parents often give the wrong things. Indeed, they’re more likely to give the children “things” than they are experiences. They mistakenly think that’s what the kids want and need. Then, when the kids grow up, they have nothing to remember.

One jokester put it this way. He said, “When I was a child, my parents gave me a bat for Christmas. Unfortunately, the first time I played with it, it flew away.”

Of course, it’s not an entirely new problem. Some parents didn’t understand this giving concept years ago. Charles Frances Adams, a 19th century diplomat, wrote in his diary one day, “Took my boy fishing today. A wasted day.” His son, Brook Adams, wrote in his diary the same day, “Went fishing today with my father. Greatest day of my life.”

I think the same problem exists in many organizations. Many organizations make the mistake of giving their people “things” instead of “experiences.” They give their employees a decent salary, a few benefits, and an occasional T-shirt with the company logo.

That’s fine. But strong, healthy, lasting work relationships need more than things. They need their organizations to give them some positive experiences as well. Gilmore and Pine make that abundantly clear in their best-selling book, The Experience Economy.

The bottom line is simply this. Any good relationship, whether that is at home or on the job, is built on a foundation of loving and giving. Oh, you can call it different things. You can use different terms–such as caring, service, and recognition–but it all boils down to loving and giving.

So how do you do that? Let me suggest some simple principles of giving. You can apply these principles to anyone with whom you live or work.

First, GIVE NOW. Don’t wait for the employee’s annual performance review or your wife’s birthday to give. They already expect to receive something, so that lessens the impact of your giving. Give now.

It’s like the cow and pig having a discussion. The cow talked about how she gave milk and cream everyday. But the pig was angry. He said, “I give my all–ham, knuckles, even my skin for brushes. So why do they love you so much and not me?” The cow replied, “Maybe it’s because I do my giving when I’m living.” She gave now.

Second, GIVE WHAT THE OTHER PERSON WOULD APPRECIATE. No one tries to be intentionally insensitive, but it happens all too often. I see it when the boss gives his employees tickets to a baseball game, but some of his employees couldn’t care less about baseball. I see it when a husband gives his wife a new TV set, but he’s the one who does most of the TV viewing. You’ve got to give what the other person would appreciate.

Lisa Whicker’s children didn’t understand that. While she was shopping with her three small children at the mall, a window display of lingerie caught her attention. As she pointed to a lacy teddy and matching robe, she asked her kids, “Do you think Daddy would like this?” “No way,” her horrified 6-year old son replied. “Daddy would NEVER wear THAT.”

One gentleman understood the necessity of giving what the other person would appreciate. Every morning he passed by the house of a lonely, elderly widow and would give her a rose.

One day, as she was entertaining a visitor, she said, “The rose comes from his garden. Here he comes right now, taking a walk with his friend.”

And sure enough, the gentleman handed her a beauty. With a gallant bow, he said, “I grew this one just for you.”

As the gentleman and his friend walked away, the gentleman explained sheepishly, “I’ve never been in a garden in my life. I buy her a rose in the florist shop down the street every morning. It gives her such a happy look for a few moments.”

Give what the other person would appreciate.

Then third, GIVE EVEN WHEN YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE IT. Give when it’s not easy. Such sacrificial giving often brings the best results.

Cecil Osborne discussed that in his book, The Art of Understanding Your Mate. He discussed the case of a woman who told her counselor, “I hate my husband. I can’t stand him. I not only want to divorce him, but I want to make things as difficult for him as I can.”

The counselor wisely perceived something else was going on. So he said, “I have an answer for you. When you leave my office, I want you to go home and start catering to your husband’s every whim. Love him. Compliment him. Pamper him. Make life as easy and wonderful for him as you possibly can. Then when he gets to the point where he needs you and is flowering in the glory of your attention, file for a divorce. That will fracture him.”

The woman left, and for months the counselor did not hear anything from her. One evening at a social event, however, he saw her across the room. He asked, “I haven’t heard from you since we talked. Did you divorce your husband?”

“Divorce my husband,” she gasped. “I love my husband. I took your advice. Every bit of it. We’ve never been happier.”

The counselor’s strategy worked. When the woman gave when she didn’t feel like it, when she didn’t want to, when it wasn’t easy, the relationship improved.
Finally, GIVE EVEN THOUGH YOU MAY NOT GET ANYTHING IN RETURN. That’s the very nature of giving. If you expect something in return, you’re not giving; you’re exchanging.

One 5-year old boy understood this principle. His story was told by a hospital volunteer.

The volunteer said she got to know a little girl, a patient named Liz, who was suffering from a rare and serious disease. Her only chance of recovery appeared to be a blood transfusion from her 5-year old brother. He had miraculously survived the same disease and had developed the antibodies needed to combat the disease.

The doctor explained the situation to her little brother, and asked the little boy if he would be willing to give his blood to his sister. The boy hesitated for only a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “Yes, I’ll do it, if it will save her.”

As the transfusion progressed, he lay in bed next to his sister and smiled, seeing the color returning to her cheeks. Then his face grew pale, and his smile faded. He looked up at the doctor and asked with a trembling voice, “Will I start to die right away?”

Being young, the boy had misunderstood the doctor. He thought he was going to give his sister all of his blood in order to save her. But he was willing to give even though he wouldn’t get anything in return.

Follow these four principles of giving, and I guarantee better relationships in every part of your life.


Action:  I challenge you this week to be the best giver you have ever been. Give to people at home, at work, anyplace at anytime. Just follow the principles I’ve outlined, and notice what happens. Notice how people respond and how you feel. There will be some wonderful outcomes.

And then, if you’re real brave, share your stories with me. If I use your story in an upcoming issue of the “Tuesday Tips” to inspire others, I’ll send you a free audio CD of one of my programs.