The Balance Of Give And Take

Some people are natural givers and others are natural takers, but both extremes can be equally destructive if not properly balanced with their opposite.

When we describe someone as a taker, a person who is uncompromisingly selfish and who demands more of a relationship than he or she is willing to give back to it, there is often a negative connotation attached to the image we conjure of this person. Conversely, we often think of a giver, someone who is all too willing to compromise for others and who appears to consistently give more than he or she takes from a relationship, as an inherently positive archetype.

In reality, however, emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually healthy people are some balanced combination of both of these extremes.

The reasons we dislike, distrust, and even despise selfish people are somewhat obvious when we consider the fact that humans are inherently tribal creatures. A person who takes more than he or she gives back to the tribe is essentially an enemy to the tribe’s overall health and well-being, like a cancer that must be cut out of the body before it metastasizes.

An extreme giver, on the other hand, in spite of the way we usually think about such people, is actually just as detrimental to the tribe as the extreme taker. A person who gives away more of themselves and their resources than they gather or harvest, who overextends themselves and the group, making everyone more vulnerable, is also an enemy to the tribe, like an open wound that must be sealed or cauterized so that the body does get infected or bleed out.

The tribe, in order for it to survive and thrive, must function as a cohesive unit wherein, ideally, each member never takes or demands more than they give and, also, wherein each member never gives away or offers up more than they gather or harvest. In order for the tribe to be at its best, it and its members, must be in balance.


Holistic Budo: As it is in budo, so too it is in life. As it is in life, so too it is in budo.

Robert Van Valkenburgh is co-founder of Taikyoku Mind & Body and Kogen Dojo where he teaches Taikyoku Budo and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

All photos by Robert Van Valkenburgh unless otherwise noted.

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