The Clean Give

Today's guest post is a conversation about accepting compliments which I had with Karen Lynn Ragsdale and a handful of others, wherein she presented what was, to me, a challenging idea about giving.

Karen Lynn knows a lot about how intent affects trust.

So here's the thing about have to give 'em up. Ya know? like totally let loose of 'em so they can become a gift.

Just cause some seeds don't sprout, doesn't mean I didn't plant. A lot of compliments sprout long after the moment of exchange, when we aren't around. Oh sure they may say, "Oh, it was nothing" But later they mention the compliment in a conversation or note it in a journal or incubate it in their thoughts where it grows in value. (they opened my gift later in private)

Point is: I don't always get to witness the 'return on influence' or reap benefit for myself. and if I gave it away clean then there's no problem with whatever response there is.

Giving gifts to get gifts can be tricky business. It often fertilizes disappointment which can fuel our lizard brain into commentary about how its better to keep our head down, don't give or give more strategically.

Yes, compliments are best experienced as an equatable exchange of value. But I'm not sure gifts or giving work like that. At least not with a clean give.

Karen, that's a really challenging concept, truly 'giving up' the gift. It's almost certainly because I struggle with that level of unselfish generosity. My anti-compass kicked in hard when I read your comment; it screamed "no no no wrong wrong wrong" and then when I started breathing again I thought perhaps I should ask myself why I had such an immediate visceral reaction to something so unselfish.

So, I'm asking myself, and I'm not sure, yet, what the answer is. I just know that reading your comment made me respect and like you more than I already did; the attitude seems, I don't know, honorable. Something like that.

I aspire to understand; perhaps, even to emulate.

A clean give. What a packed phrase. Wow.

Wow indeed Joel. I felt your honesty as an actual warmth spot in the heart area of my body, seriously. I thought what in the heck is that? Then I breathed, humbly accepting that this is true about me and about giving so...Thank you. I'm so grateful to share this little truth with you.

My mama first shared it with me years ago when I was fussin' over how my sister was in a take take take relationship with me and complaining about feeling taken advantage of and giving more than I got back. He her strong southern mama tone she said "Karen, I don't think you're giving anything 'cause giving just don't feel like that." I was shocked and appalled, immediately launching into a rant that listed all the giving I had been doing which she listened to for a minute then stopped with this suggestion "if you want to feel really good about giving, learn to give clean or say no. the next time your sister wants something or you want to give something to her or help her in some way, pause first. Go inside and ask yourself 'if nothing comes back to me am I still ok with giving this' if the answer is yes then give and if it is no then don't. You are responsible for the advantage people take because you attach a hidden clause on all your giving. That's not giving darlin' that's manipulation and its not working with your sister."

Truth is I didn't really get it that day. I walked away feeling kinda the way you explained above Joel (plus I had a vested interest in proving what a giver I was and what a taker my sister was, giving that up wouldn't be easy). But I trusted her and wanted to feel better so I indeed started doing exactly what she suggested.

I was amazed to find a web of 'hidden clauses' I attached to almost everything I did around giving and helping others. Following her prescription, this compelled me to start saying no which I had never really done before and no didn't feel good at all. But just as she suspected, my giving began to transform. I learned to Give Clean.

A clean give is harder to give and highly suspect in our world. I remember some talk in the beginning here in triiibes about the hidden agenda Seth must have in bringing us all together. What is he getting out of this deal – are we being used somehow for his benefit?

That same suspicion colors the exchange of compliments sometimes. But I found that the cleaner I give 'em the better I feel and the more authentic they fall into the experience with the other person. I still find myself attaching hidden clauses and secret agendas in my giving and when I do, I try to decide not to give ~ that is still the hard part.


Comments 7

  1. Daniel Edlen wrote:

    Nice post, nice interview, nice thoughts. Thanks for giving.


    Posted 21 May 2010 at 7:18 am
  2. Joel D Canfield wrote:

    Synchronicity; cool.

    Posted 21 May 2010 at 7:21 am
  3. Shawn McCormick wrote:

    My wife and I discuss this topic quite often as we have friends and relatives who are obvious "takers". In the end, for me, it boils down to answering this question: "Who do I want to be and what do I want to be known for?"

    It makes it easier to give cleanly and not expect anything in return. From time to time I find myself 'summing up' the gives and takes in different relationships and I remind myself to give cleanly (did I mention I love that phrase?). Of course, the other part of me wants to make sure that I am not a taker so I find myself ensuring that I "repay" others...but that limits their ability to give cleanly (if I always reciprocate).

    Did I mention that it is confusing to be a clean giver and a clean taker? :-)

    Posted 21 May 2010 at 7:29 am
  4. Joel D Canfield wrote:

    I think it deserves the F. Scott Fitzgerald treatment: allow others to give clean, yet still know we want to give to those who've given to us, not to reciprocate, but to expand.

    Or something like that.

    Posted 21 May 2010 at 7:58 am
  5. Shawn McCormick wrote:

    I like that summary - "...not to reciprocate, but to expand."

    Posted 21 May 2010 at 8:45 am
  6. David Kaufman wrote:

    When I read the title of this post "The Clean Give", I rushed to read it and see if it was really about what I thought it was about. And it was, in a sideways kind of way.

    You see my mother taught me the very same thing, not in the context of giving, but of lending. She told me once, when I was upset that a good friend hadn't repaid a debt, that "You should never lend a friend anything you can't afford to give them. You must first decide privately, in your heart, whether you're willing and able to consider it a gift. If you can't, in your heart, give it to them as a gift" she explained, "then you just have to say no." And it's only in your heart -- you need not (probably should not!) *tell* them you are going to consider it a gift -- that fact is for your benefit, not theirs.

    Then, if they do repay you, it's a pleasant surprise for you, that you truly were not expecting -- if it was "a clean give, right? And if they never do, your gift will not jeopardize the friendship the way an unpaid debt might. You don't feel the need to hound them to repay you for the gift you gave them, do you? If you do, then you're not doing it right!

    My initial reaction to this concept was "But it's the PRINCIPLE of the thing! Shouldn't he respect our friendship enough to pay me back?" And the answer is yes, of course he should. But some people are just irresponsible like that -- and I can only be responsible for my choices and my behavior. I know my friend did genuinely intend to repay me at the time (and probably still does!), but he lives in a perpetual state of financial crisis and I know this about him, and yet I still want to be friends -- just maybe not his payday-loan shark...

    So I decided I could forgive the debt my friend owed me, in my heart, because the money was not as important as the friendship was to me, and I stopped asking for it, and started feeling good for having helped him instead of feeling bad that he wronged me.

    Then, like the writer of this post, though I doubted it would work, I tried it out the next time someone asked me to "help them out of a jam", "just till next month". And it has worked better than I could have imagined. I no longer agonize over the decision, if someone asks to borrow money. If I care about them enough to give it, and I can afford to, then why wouldn't I "lend" it to them cheerfully? If I don't, then I may have to make up some polite excuses and apologize, but I simply will not. The best part is that other people don't *have* to change their ways -- the change has all in my own head.

    I changed the way I look at lending: I'm not a bank. I don't lend money -- I sometimes give a good friend a gift that they really need, right when they need it. And that makes me feel great! And, as an added bonus, sometimes they give me one back! It's like you really can change the world just by changing the way you look at it! You make this pre-choice about how you will treat this problem that has the potentioal to be painful both emotionally and financially, as if it was actually an opportunity, and not only does that make the bad outcomes and hard feelings impossible, it generates great ones!

    My mom taught me this small but powerful bit of responsibility, how and when and why to say no. I learned to take that pause, in advance, when someone promises oh-so-genuinely that they will pay you back "as soon as possible", and ask myself first if a) I can afford it financially, and b) whether I'm willing to *give* this person what they've asked to borrow. It has led to a few uncomfortable No's, but the real treasure in this advice is when you do end up having "given a gift" to someone that they'd only asked to borrow, and instead of guilt and anger and damaged relationships, you feel good that you were able to help out a friend in need.

    Since I stopped asking for it, my friend has stopped asking me to lend him money -- which was worth the investment right there! But if he ever does again, I know now that I would help him again, if he really needed it and I could afford to, (tho please don't tell him I said so!) because that's what friends do. Looked at this way, he'd call it a loan to save his pride and I'd call it a gift, to save mine.

    Years later I told my mom how much her advice had helped me throughout my life, and she admitted that she'd actually learned it from me (and my brothers). If you replace "friend" with "teen-aged offspring" it's pretty much describes how parents are forced to handle loan applications from those financially irresponsible people that they happen to live with, and love :-)

    Posted 07 Jun 2010 at 10:35 am
  7. Joel D Canfield wrote:

    David, that is a superb application of the same concept.

    "The best part is that other people don’t *have* to change their ways — the change has all in my own head."

    Exactly! Be the change you want to see. I've taken the same attitude toward loaning money, or loaning anything, for that matter, and it has made a world of difference.

    Thanks for sharing. Next time you're feeling talkative, I'd love to use something this good as a guest post and get it a broader audience.

    Posted 07 Jun 2010 at 10:44 am

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