The Magic of No-Strings Giving

Barbara Morris

Barbara Morris

Humans have the capacity to be both givers and takers. On a scale of 1  to 10, with takers at one end and givers at the other end, most of us are in the middle at about five. I don’t understand the psychology of why we are what we are but I think it’s interesting to recognize types of givers and what makes them tick. I think there are three general types of givers:

#1: The devil made me do it. These givers give out of guilt because they have more money or prestige than others, or because they don’t want to be perceived as stingy or not caring. Or, they give because they feel coerced. Example: an employer participates in fund raising for a social issue such as “Saving Stray Snails”. That an employee  doesn’t want to participate doesn’t  matter —   support is expected. So you give because you don’t want to be perceived as not being in sync with the group. Besides, by not supporting the group effort, it  may be assumed that you don’t want to help save stray snails ( Eeeeooo! You are a snail hater!) which becomes grist for gossip which can affect office relationships. It’s safer to give.

#2: You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours. . . maybe. These givers  give because they want something in return. They are not truly givers but score keepers. They keep score of the number and times that favors have been given and when needed, they “cash in their chips.” These “givers” are serious about their “giving”. If you balk at returning a favor you will be presented with a detailed account of what the “giver” has done for you in the past. If you don’t remember what has been given to you, your “giver” will make certain others know about your ungrateful memory.

Related to score keepers are barterers. For example, you have tickets to an event but don’t want to drive to the event because alcohol will be served and you look forward to a couple of margaritas. To find someone willing to drive and not drink, you extol the benefits of the free ticket, offer an amount for gas and use of the auto, and perhaps, free food at the event. It is made to appear something is being given, but there is no element of giving; it’s a business arrangement masquerading as giving.

#3. The no-strings givers. They give and expect nothing in return . Unfortunately, selfless givers are sometimes misunderstood. They can be mistaken as “pushovers” who will do anything to be liked, or, they are mistaken as having a nefarious ulterior motive. After all, who “does good” and doesn’t expect something in return? What scoffers of selfless giving often don’t get is that selfless givers,  along with anonymous givers, are rewarded with more joy and fulfillment than imagined. They have learned it is in giving that we get, and what is received in return is usually not in kind, but in ways that can be unexpected, and of far more value than what had been given. Ask any selfless giver who appears to “have it all”.




  1. Eileen, thanks so much for your positive feedback. Yes, our human nature keeps many at about 5 but we can always strive to do more and there is a lot of satisfaction in that effort.

  2. Very thought provoking, Barbara. Honestly, your newsletter just keeps getting better and better! I’m devouring this issue.

    I understand why the majority of us are 5s on the Giving Scale. It’s the normal curve thing reflected in our human nature. If we accept that most humans are basically kind and generous, being 5 on this curve is a good thing. Very few of us can be at the 10 extreme like Mother Theresa or want to be at the other end like Bernie Madoff or Imelda Marcos.

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