When I was in my late twenties, I was the assistant controller in a successful company. One day, the owner shared this with me: “There are givers and takers in this world. My wife is a giver. I am a taker. And, you, Kay, are a giver.” I recall the words clearly because they were so succinct and matter-of-fact. He made no apology or excuses for who he was. He didn’t defend, or explain away, how he got there. It wasn’t a proclamation issued from a place of pride or disdain; it was simply truth.
I remember thinking about his simple declaration for a long time and feeling proud of myself for being in the “giver” category; I believed that was an identifier of a life being well-played-out. Joe was right about that characterization. I have always been a “giver”. In the first few decades of my life it was because I didn’t know how to not be in the role of taking care of others, or of putting my desires on the “back burner”. I grew into that way of living because, from a very young age, there were things expected from me.
Sometimes we’re givers because we grew up with specific expectations. Sometimes we’re takers because we were told or shown, when we were very young, that we should be concerned only with what makes us happy. Then there are, what some psychologists call, “matchers”—people who give with reciprocity. They’re the folks who give in the same measure in which they receive.
But, like most things in life, balance is important.
I’m still, primarily, a “giver” who has to work hard to ask for, or accept, help and support (but I have gotten much better at it). I have both “givers” and “takers” and “matchers” in the circles of my life. Some of them are skewed to one side much more than the other, but most of them are really good examples of being desirous of giving fully and being able to accept graciously. It doesn’t have to be an “either/or” situation!
Now, what is “Candlestick Makers” doing in the title of this post? When I was very young there was nursery rhyme that included the words “the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker”. It’s a nonsensical piece that originally alluded to less-than-reputable behavior, but has evolved over the years into the children’s poem many of us have heard. When I was thinking about “Givers and Takers”, the words “and Candlestick Makers” got stuck in my head. Then, as I continued to wonder why I couldn’t let go of it, I had an “aha moment”!
I’m cool with being a giver—unless the giving has a negative impact like feeling “less-than” (see last week’s post where I had to step away from a situation). But, what I’d also like to do is be a “candlestick maker”—someone who creates a space where the lights of our world (the candles) can be lifted up and supported; someone who’s willing to be the cornerstone, so another’s generosity can shine brightly; someone who’s a vehicle for others to take a step forward and live into their best selves—realizing that they can make our world a better place by being willing to step back and joyfully give.
Givers are able to put the needs and desires of others first, often actually seeking out opportunities to give to others. They give unconditionally, but sometimes are self-sacrificing (been there, done that), which is not at all healthy.
Takers look for opportunities to profit in every situation. They take and take and take, without any sense of giving back. They believe that the world owes them everything and that they must always be first in line.
Matchers have a phantom “score card” (often hidden away in a secret place) of what’s “owed” to them. It’s all about keeping it even. Nothing is given without something being taken first.
Candlestick Makers want to encourage the best in everyone, because they know it’s there. They want to lift up as many lights as possible, so that our world can shine with her full potential.
Do you give freely out of joy?
Do you take and take without ever thinking about it?
Are you willing to only give after you’ve received something first?
Do you support, and encourage, the people you love to shine brightly?
Givers and Takers and Candlestick Makers, and we all live in this small, same world……