Givers and Takers.

Warning: this is a rant/personally learned lesson.

Warning: I do, somewhat, generalize.  I realize this.  I expect you are enough of an adult to realize that there are always exceptions and always more shades of gray than what most people spend the time to describe.  However, when you learn a lesson and go on to share it, well, it often is described in black and white so you get the point of the lesson.   I realize that some people have a lot to give in one area of life yet are enormous takers in other areas of life.  I realize that some people are givers all the time and some only when they feel “filled up.”

I have, at my ripe old age, come to the realization that there are givers and there are takers in this world.  I am a giver.  Sadly I give to the point of exhaustion.  I give beyond what I have as personal resources to give.  I then end up in pain, disillusioned with the people and world around me.  I also, often, refuse what is freely offered to me.  I refuse to take even when it would be good for me – mentally, physically.
I wonder why some people are givers and others choose to be takers?  Are the takers trying to fill a hole inside of themselves?  Do they need to take to feel loved?  Do they not know another way of being in this world?  Do they feel it is their right or they are entitled to take?

Do givers give because they need to feel needed?  Do givers give because they are taught that is the way to exist in this world?  Do they give to make up for some past mistake, imagined or otherwise?  Do givers prefer to be givers rather than takers?

Do we need a balance of both for a healthy world?  For variety?

I realize why I’ve burnt out in previous work.  I give.  I don’t set boundaries.  I need this time or this space to take care of ME.  I need this time to have a boyfriend, friends, travel, study, dream, write, sleep… SLEEP.  I seem to attract takers like flies.  They see an easy target.  Someone who will give – urge them in the right direction, ask for it indirectly and I’ll step up to the plate and give and give and give.  I’ll help until I’m sick and in bed.  And then.. then I’ll apologize for not being able to give more and promise that I’ll make it up to them as soon as I can crawl out of bed.

Something changed this last year.  I hit exhaustion.  In my professional life and in my personal life.  I jettisioned two friendships.  Friendships that didn’t feed my soul.  People that didn’t stop and listen to my boundaries.  People that didn’t have my best interests in mind.  Not, mind you, bad people.  Just bad for me, bad right now, not a good/healthy fit for me people.

I had guilt over those decisions.  I felt sad.  I wondered if I had done the wrong thing.  Until, just this last week.  MSO questioned me over why those people weren’t in my life anymore.  I answered:  this is what happened.

I was surprised.  I realized.  These people took from me and didn’t give back. One took, pure and simple and in a pathological sense.  The other one took and tried to give back but the giving was twisted and unhealthy.

But here is the surprising one.  Just over a month ago I told someone who was a taker that they could no longer take from me.  I was done and that they needed to give back.  They disappeared from my life in less than a week.  I was in shock.  And then I realized.  If you are a taker, and you don’t know how to give, you go elsewhere to find a different giver.

I never realized that it was so simple.  I stop giving more than I can give.  I stop being an open target and the takers will disappear.  I might attract other givers.  I might attract people who take some and give some.  People that are more balanced.

I make a promise to myself.  I will take.  I will only take that which is freely offered.  Only that which the other person giving can afford to give (whether it’s time, money, or emotional energy) and truly wants to give.  I also promise to stop giving blindly.  I will stop and assess whether I have the time or energy or really want to give.

I will live with more balance.  Maybe then, there will be enough of me left for MSO and other friends in my life at the end of the day.


~ by mud on October 18, 2007.

4 Responses to “Givers and Takers.”

  1. Hello Copper,

    I just saw this old post of yours and realised that it fits my situation quite well. How are things going ? Have you found the right balance ?

    I live in Switzerland and up till 2 months ago, I had a fairly happy balance between giving and taking with my friends and family. I am a giver, but not to the point of exhaustion that you talk about.

    My harmony was disrupted 2 months ago when I fell in love with a taker. Love makes you blind. Even though she does not reciprocate, I am in love with her. Every time, I try to get out, I get sucked back in.

    How did you tell the person that they are a taker? I wonder if a taker can change or whether this is fixed in character. Also, I wonder if takers are often single-children, i.e. without siblings. My guess is that an only-child gets so much love and attention that they never have to give.

    Any thoughts ?

    I hope all is well with you,


  2. Kamal,

    That is funny as I am an only child. I was given lots and lots of love and very few things. I think I learned the value of caring for another very young didn’t mean riches but meant time and attention.

    I think takers change. I don’t know what stimulates change but I think they can change.

    The people that were takers I ended up severing contact with. I don’t miss them nor do I have any regrets. What I am learning is despite being aware of the giver/taker dynamic it can be a real balance to achieve in day to day life with people you wish to stay in contact and relationship with. I am dealing with another taker in my life now. Unfortunately she is very young and so teaching her is slow. I find the setting of boundaries can take enormous time but does have results that are positive for both of you. Setting those boundaries is both respectful of you and respectful of her. Living in a relationship without any boundaries is mush and creates more problems than the upfront difficulty of learning boundaries. I do wish you the best of luck. It is a slow growing process. 🙂

  3. Givers are just feeling it in their heart. There is no logical reason. It’s part of their nature that they had and usually nurtured.

  4. Hello Copper,

    Thanks for your reply.

    You are right that time and attention are the critical factors for caring about someone. It is great you learned this early. I hope I am wrong about the only-child takers…

    Maybe what stimulates change for takers is awareness of the sensitivities of others. I have made her aware that I am not happy with the situation and that we need to find a compromise on the time/attention issue.

    Is the taker you are dealing with, a child? Setting boundaries with a child is extremely important. There is a great BBC series called ‘Child of our Time.’ The BBC is following 25 children born in 2000 to gain insights into child development in the modern times. If you get a chance, watch the series or read the book. See

    I will try to set boundaries with the object of my attention. My biggest fear is to lose her if I push too hard.

    Thanks again for your time and thoughts. I wish you lots of luck and fun with your challenges. If you ever need to talk to someone from Europe, contact me on

    Have a nice weekend,


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