It is easy to take. Easy to talk about yourself. Getting what you want feels comfortable. Having your way feels empowering. Being selfish is rewarding. Getting ahead, gaining a step, unlocking the fast lane, accumulating wealth, collecting pride points, and scoring the win. It all feels great.
However, everything we take for us while we are alive we take with us when we are gone. What good does that ego-saving line you dropped on someone do when you leave? What good does constantly talking about yourself do for anyone else when you’re not around? What good does it do, helping yourself over others, when you are dead? It leaves behind nothing. Sometimes less than nothing if we even inadvertently stepped on others along our way.
Anyone can take. Everyone should give.
How far does giving go? Helping a stranger with the most insignificant task. Fully investing in another’s problems. Talking about them, not you. Sacrificing your time for a favor. Going out of your way to offer encouragement. A hug. A pat on the shoulder. A smile. No gesture is too small. How far does this take us? While I do not know the exact answer, or if one is even quantifiable, I do believe the potential is limitless. Long after you are gone, there will be those who have benefited from something you have done. Among their monotonous day, they will have the small bright spot that was you. They will become inspired from your encouragement to take a step they were afraid to take. They will be motivated to encourage others to do the same, spreading the gift like a happy germ. The path of their life, if only barely perceptible, may change for the better because of what you gave them.
Make no mistake, this path is far more difficult than the path of taking for yourself. It wouldn’t be fair to talk about the virtues of selflessness without addressing the cost of giving. Often you will give at your own expense. You will sacrifice time, energy, money, patience, and pride. Most of these things you can recover, with the exception of time. Most people value, and therefore horde their time simply because it is finite. I am 100% guilty of this. I believe this is at the core of what makes giving so difficult, but also so meaningful. When we sacrifice a fully-invested, single minute of our time, we prove we truly care. No matter what anyone says, everyone wants someone to care. When you forfeit time you will never recoup and spend it on another, you are giving to your fullest.
Additionally, giving must not be perverted into a personal achievement. Giving to others for the benefit of your own ego is just passive taking. You must give without expectation. You will not be rewarded a plaque commemorating your generous deed. You will not receive a receipt with a shining list of your kindness. Do not trick yourself into trophy hunting for appreciation. In some cases, the person you are helping may never know you helped them at all. This is perfectly fine. Giving can be thankless, giving can go unappreciated, giving will go without reciprocation. The entire point is that you are investing in someone other than yourself. The impact could be imperceptible. It could also be life-altering.
How do you pass up an opportunity like that? An opportunity to help grow the world around you, rather than only yourself. The power to create, rather than destroy. The chance to be remembered for the positive impact you had on those you care about, rather than for material achievement. Do you want to leave behind a reputation that dies with you or a legacy that permeates forever?
In the end we often get what we give, ironically making us twice as rich as those who take.