Maxim 11: It is better to be in a position to give than in a position to receive.

“Money can’t buy love, but it improves your bargaining position.”
~ Christopher Marlowe

We have most likely heard this saying in that it is better to give than to receive. Regardless of its origins, it presupposes that the act of giving is held better in regard than the act of receiving, most highly regarded by those of religious virtues and values.

However, an article or excerpt from a book once read prior once exclaimed that the actual saying is said as it is better to be in a position to give than in a position to receive.

This axiom tells us that being in an advantageous position is much more worthy than being in a disadvantageous position. Indeed, we are then ascribing ourselves to another maxim which is it is better to err on the side of caution.

Let’s think about the incomplete version. If it is so good to give, then why don’t we all give others everything we have in our due possession? Why do we then hold valuables, materials and holdings rather than giving it away?

Simply because we are unconsciously following the complete axiom. No matter what we call ourselves, we will always be beings with the sense of self-preservation and self-interest. It is encoded in our nature to protect well-being first and foremost before all others. To put ourselves in a precarious position is plain insane by any form of standard, whether it is instinctively or rationally (unless there is something to gain, even then a calculated risk). In such an advantageous position, we are in control and able to dictate our terms to our most favourable outcome. Besides, we then have the means to negotiate an even better position compared to anyone else.

Regardless of it all, we would always remember we should always be in a position to give, but that never means that we should neither give or not give. Besides, that also means that being in a position to give is no obligation for us to give to others unless we deem it prudent or our consciousness dictates so.

Animals have genes for altruism, and those genes have been selected in the evolution of many creatures because of the advantage they confer for the continuing survival of the species.”
~ Lewis Thomas

Much of our behaviours today originate from our ancestors. In that,  we are in-tuned with our instinctive nature to be in an advantageous position to maximize our chances of survival and in-turn the opportunity to reproduce. While this may sound cynical, it is what it is and by no means it is limited to this view. Societies have a propensity to help each other through sheer acts of altruism in which yes, it is better to give than to receive in that the act of altruism is for the greater good for our society.

With that said, humanity still has the will to freedom to do as it chooses. To do so, we must always be aware of our nature to then understand it and finally mater ourselves and others, for the greater good.

Further Reading:

Maxim 2: Self-interest Must Be Aligned

“Even wisdom has to yield to self-interest.”
~ Pindar

Very early on, during an economics class, I had a lecturer explain during class that the economy and market works because of self-interest. He was very explicit and direct in mentioning that self-interest is not the same as selfishness. At the time, I was coming to terms along to the same line of thought and it was refreshing for someone else to say that.

In that, I learned to redefine what selfishness meant. In my book, selfishness refers to self-interest that harms or exploits others with actual consequences.

“Men are moved by two levers only: fear and self interest.”
~ Napolean

Let’s be frank. Everyone has their own self-interest. We are our own individuals. Early on, people have very similar needs like those stated at the bottom sections of “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”. As people progress upwards, diverging wants exist due to self-interest of different individuals.

Now here’s the main point.

Self-interest is not inherently good or bad. It is what it is.

It is like politics, science, education, tools and more. Self-interest is like a hammer. A hammer can be used for good or bad. A hammer can be used to build something new or it can be used to harm or even kill. The consequences of using the hammer then depend on the intentions of the wielder.

As such, we must learn to realize that mastering and understanding not only our self-interest but the self-interest of others is the key to success and getting everything that we want.

Here’s a link on how to use self-interest to mutual advantage. It’s a 11-minute video by “Charisma on Command” on why Tyrion is such a master at surviving and getting people to do what they want. I highly recommend to watch it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMliNd2b2K0

We hope the world will act in the spirit of enlightened self-interest.
~ Atal Bihari Vaijpayee

After mastering it, the best we can aspire to is enlightened self-interest or rationality. Enlightened self-interest means that we’ll pursue our self-interests while taking into consideration that we do not harm and exploit others to their loss for our self-gain. In fact, enlightened self-interest means not only pursuing our self-interest but to improve the lives of others. Think of the inventor of the polio vaccine who didn’t patent it. His self-interest was seeing the betterment of humanity altogether. Such selflessness is merely the fulfillment of a higher self-interest. That being said, we are not heroes and saints. The more plausible thing we can aspire to do and achieve is a win-win situation for both ourselves and others.

However, we must understand that sometimes, our self-interest will hurt others unconsciously and unintentionally. That said, we shouldn’t stop there. We must ensure that we do our best to do things with the best of intentions for ourselves while not harming or exploiting others. If it happens, the best we can do is be unapologetic and continue as we must first take care of ourselves first, last and always.

Till the next time.