Give and Receive versus Give and Take

‘Give and take’ is a commonly used phrase in our culture.  I think there is a lot of truth in this concept and it sounds similar to the idea of ‘give and receive’, so I thought I’d take a closer look at the similarities and differences between these two ideas.

To start with they both describe some form of exchange between more than one party.  This may be an exchange of any sort, it could be of labour, information and ideas, money or goods and so on.


Inherent within the phrase ‘give and take’ is an implied compromise.  In the case of exchange of ideas it implies that you will take on board at least some of another person’s ideas in order that some portion of your ideas will be accepted.  This is something that goes on in politics all the time, and part of what can make it difficult for a politician to keep their integrity as they can be placed in situations where in order to progress ideas (legislation) that they believe in they are faced with making compromises that progress other peoples ideas (amendments, or other pieces of legislation) that they may not believe in.  I don’t envy politicians the difficult decisions they must sometimes make in these situations.

On a smaller scale this happens in our everyday interactions with the people around us all the time.  Going out to dinner with friends, different members of your group may feel like different types of food and others may not really mind what they eat.  In order for the greater good or happiness of the group, several group members may compromise on what they want to eat, agreeing on something that is not their first choice but is acceptable to all so that the group may happily share in each other’s company for the meal.

In terms of exchange of labour, money or goods, there is an implication that both parties will not get everything they want out of the exchange, but will give something up that they want in order that they can get something else that they want or need more.  At its extreme you could take this as implying that each party would rather not give up anything in order to get what the other person is offering, they would rather keep it for themselves AND have what the other person is offering.  Thus what they put into the exchange is ‘taken’ from them as they would rather not actually give it up, even if they do agree to the exchange.

For example if I were to go out to buy some donuts, the donut vendor would put a price on his donuts that he will take for them, lets say $10 for a dozen.  In a ‘give and take’ relationship there is an implication that I would rather keep my $10 and have the donuts as well, but because I want the donuts more than the $10 I give up the money, so that I can take the donuts.  The converse is true of for the donut seller.  The exchange is free in that we both agree to it, but not completely free in that there is a set price required in order for me to obtain the donuts.  I don’t have the option of paying $5 for them, or giving no money at all.  Equally it is unlikely that I will pay $20 for them because in these types of exchanges we tend to give as little as we can so that we can keep more for ourselves.  Thus the idea of give and take tends to imply and reinforce the idea of a world of scarcity.

Compulsion – Take and be Taken From

Because the idea of scarcity is implicit in ‘give and take’ exchanges, it means that parties to the exchange cannot all have everything they want.  They have to give up something they want in order that they can have or share in something that they want more.  This means that there is always a certain begrudging tone to the exchange, both parties have agreed to the exchange but they would rather not actually give up what they have agreed to if they can avoid it – it must be taken from them.  This implies a certain level of compulsion in the exchange, and this is the case with most transactions in the world today, there is either an implicit or explicit contract which means that if one party gives up certain things they are entitled to ‘take’ certain things in return as part of the transaction contract.  Failure of one party to supply what they agreed can lead to the contract being enforced against them so the other party can take what was agreed, possibly including penalties and using external enforcement agencies such as police, courts and so on.

In a sense because the exchange is a two way exchange, and each party is entitled to ‘take’ what is agreed from the other party, ‘give and take’ is actually ‘take and be taken from’.  This leads to great conflict in the world, as each person ‘fights’ for their own best interests.

Extreme interpretation

I know this sounds like an extreme interpretation of the situation, and I certainly think that ‘give and take’ and its implied negotiated agreement of exchange is far preferable to ‘take what you want’ or ‘might is right’, but I hope that this interpretation will make more sense to you as we look more into an alternative view of exchange and we discuss more issues surrounding our current exchange environment in future blog posts.  When we have become used to a certain way of viewing and interacting with the world it tends to become embedded in our thinking to the extent that its underlying assumptions become invisible to us.  When we really examine our view in depth we can sometimes be surprised by what we find lying underneath it.

Not convinced that being ‘taken from’ is a common implied part of our normal day to day exchanges?  Have you ever had to dispute a bill or invoice you disagreed with?  It takes considerable effort, and the company in question may try to ‘take’ what they think they are owed through various types of enforcement.  Have you ever tried not paying your taxes?  The tax department will find ways to take those taxes from you or enforce penalties against you.

Turns both into ‘Givers’

Ok, so lets turn our discussion from ‘give and take’ to an alternative concept of exchange ‘give and recieve’.  The key difference is of course the substitution of the word ‘take’ with ‘recieve’.  This has quite significant implications for the exchange relationship.  Each party to the exchange effectively becomes a giver rather than a taker.  They each give what it is that they want to give and receive in return what the other party wants to give.  There is no compulsion in the exchange, as each party gives only what they want to and the other party has no right to demand more or something different as the giving was not conditional on what would be received – there are no rights to ‘take’.

This implies that each party is willing to give things up even if they receive nothing for them in return, this in turn implies a world of abundance where each party can have what they want without worrying about getting what the other party has from them.


The giving instead of being due to obligation or fear of repercussions becomes an expression of gratitude and possibly of concern for the wellbeing of the other person. The focus instead of being how much you can get from the other person and how little you can contribute in the exchange, switches to appreciation of what your are receiving, and thinking about how much you are able to give freely in return.

Even if the exact same amount of money, information, goods or services are exchanged in this way as would be exchanged in a ‘give and take’ relationship, the net result is different.  Because of the freedom of the exchange, there is no room for begrudging the other party which can occur when things are ‘taken’.  Instead as parties to the exchange think about the welfare of the other person when deciding what and how much to give, this can create positive feelings towards each other.  The inherent gratitude underlying the exchange means that the focus is put on what each person has, instead of what they don’t have.  This is a powerful change of mindset and can help each party to recognize the abundance in the world and be happy and contented with what they have, instead of always seeking for more (whether or not they actually need it).


In terms of information exchange, to give and receive freely implies that there is no need to compromise your personal views when exchanging ideas with other people.  Both parties to the exchange give their ideas freely without any expectation or need for the other person to take on those ideas.  Each person is free to take on as much or as little from the other person as they want to.  I think as a society we are coming closer and closer to this ideal.  Whereas in the past people tended to easily become suspicious or uncomfortable with people who thought or acted differently, many of us are now completely comfortable living alongside people with very different views and lifestyles to our own, and in many cases even enjoy and celebrate the diversity.

To refer back to the dining out example used earlier in this post, giving and receiving ideas freely is a bit like being able to eat at a foodcourt or buffet where everyone can get exactly what they want.  No-one has to compromise their personal tastes to enjoy the meal with others.  The fact that someone else chooses to eat something different to you doesn’t detract from your enjoyment at all and in fact may give you the opportunity to try something new that you would like – but only if you want to.

In terms of exchange of goods, people only give what they want to.  The never feel compelled to give up something that they don’t want to, and they never feel compelled to give up more than they want to.  This means that they enter into the exchange with a very different set of expectations.  This has big  implications in the areas of job satisfaction and work/life balance.


Give and take has a lot going for it.  I think this concept encapsulates some of the significant progress we have made as a society over the years, but the ‘take’ part of it has it’s downside as this can imply compulsion and no-one likes to be taken from.  I think ‘give and receive’ could be another step forward for our society bringing greater social harmony and appreciation of the amazing abundant world we live in.

I may have overstated, understated or expressed poorly some of the ideas in this blog post.  I’m really just trying to figure a lot of this stuff out myself.  As mentioned in the post, these ideas are given freely and you don’t have to take any of them onboard if you don’t want to.  I do hope you’ll stick with me though as I continue to explore these ideas and further refine and develop them.  The idea of a world of free exchange raises many intriguing questions which I intend to explore in future blog posts, as well as continuing to post updates on my own practical experimentation with these ideas.


My ‘Give Freely Receive Freely’ Experiment Update – June 2012

Well its been almost two months since I began my ‘give freely receive freely’ experiment, so I thought it was about time I posted an update about how it has been going.

To re-cap, I am trying this experiment with my clinical work (Traditional Chinese Medicine, Qigong Therapy, Massage and Lifestyle Advice).  You can read the explanation that I first posted about this on my clinic website here:


Since that time I would guess that maybe about 40% of my clients have paid a bit more than they would have in the past, about 40% have paid about the same and maybe 20% have paid a bit less.  So overall, I think I am a bit ahead in terms of the money I have received for my clinical work compared to what I would have under my previous set price approach.

I have not had a huge rush of people booking in for treatment as some people thought I would with this pricing approach, and I think there are two reasons for that.

1. I think that still not a lot of people know that I am using this ‘give freely, receive freely’ exchange idea.

2. People are unfamiliar with the idea, and maybe a little uncomfortable about it.


This is not surprising at all as it is an unusual idea and one which is quite different to what we are used to in our normal day to day transactions.  Some people have actually done some research into this kind of exchange – referring to it as ‘pay what you want’.   You can read about some of this research here:

One of the key findings from the research was that less people would buy something paying whatever they want for it (even though they could pay nothing if they wanted to) than would buy something with a low set price.  I believe that this is because most people have an innate sense of what is a fair exchange, and only want to engage in exchanges that feel fair to them.

I believe this is a very good thing – even if it does not maximize income.  My aim in experimenting with this type of exchange is not to maximize the money I receive, although I certainly wish to have enough to pay for my needs my main aim is to engage in a more free type of exchange with people that encourages them to think about and recognize the true value of what they are doing.  This requires thought and can be quite difficult when people are not used to considering economic transactions in this way.  It is also to make my services affordable to everyone, not matter what their economic circumstances may be.

Therapeutic Value

From a therapeutic point of view I believe that this type of exchange can be beneficial because it causes the patient to consciously think about the value of the treatment they receive.  All to often we go through life not thinking about the reason or value of what we are doing.  By consciously thinking about this it helps to open the way for the patient to actually ‘receive’ the benefit of the treatment.  In the end while I as a practitioner will have an effect on the health of my patients, most of the work is going to be done by them.  It is their cells that will have to repair themselves, it is them who may have to do remedial exercises, it is them who may need to make changes to eating habits, lifestyle and thinking patterns.  Conscious engagement in assigning value to the sessions they have with me can help to create commitment on both a conscious and unconscious level to follow through on what they need to do to become well.

This type of conscious engagement can then spill over into other areas of their lives as they learn to recognize value in what they do.  They will hopefully continue and do more of the things that are truly valuable and find themselves doing less and less of those things that have little value or even take value away.

It has been interesting over the last few weeks as I have shared this ‘give freely receive freely’ idea with people.  I have found myself eager to see a new client or one I haven’t seen in awhile, as much to share this concept with them as for any other reason.  I have seen many smiles, nods of agreement and a few laughs as people have heard or read about the concept.  Some people have been excited and enthusiastic, others self conscious and maybe a little confused.  No-one has been outright negative.  One client who was not very happy with his work situation told me that what I am doing had inspired him to investigate a new joint venture opportunity that was coming up.

The Experiment Continues

It is early days for the experiment yet.  I plan to keep it going for now, and maybe permanently.  I am actually already thinking about how I might be able to viably use this concept for some of the other services I offer.

I do hope that as I continue people will become more and more comfortable with this concept.  ‘Give freely, receive freely’ does not mean that you suddenly have to pay more for something to show that you fully value it, it does mean that you have to engage with your role in an exchange and deal with concepts of value, integrity and fairness.  I hope that people will remember that what is ‘fair’ for them to give in an exchange has a lot to do with their resources.  Those who have little should not feel bad that they can only give little.  Those who have a lot should feel good that they are able to give a lot.  And those people somewhere in between (which is probably most of us) need to be realistic about what they can give in an exchange – so that they are satisfied and feel good about the exchange, both what they have received and what they have given.

(Those who are scripturally inclined might like to check out these links Mark 12: 41-44, Mosiah 4:27)

I know that this is challenging and maybe even confronting when you are used to having the price of something set for you.  But I think there is real value for both parties to exchanging in this way.

I have quite a lot more that I would like to write about ‘give freely, receive freely’ and the way it can change our perception of the world around us and our relationships with others. That is why I have set up this blog.  I think the idea has potential, and I am sure I will learn a lot more about it as I experiment with it in practice. I realize that to some of you this whole concept seems very strange, but I hope that you will continue to read this blog as I post more about my ideas and experiences with this concept, and maybe it will still seem strange to you, or maybe it will start to make sense.  At the very least I hope it will give you some food for thought and maybe even some entertainment.