A decade ago, back in 2009, Shawn of the Bread, my best friend from 7th grade, came to visit me in Shanghai. It was fun, we goofed around and I yelled at a cab driver. Kiwi J gave him the name “Shawn of the Bread” and we reminisced about middle school.
I remember telling Shawn of the Bread about a particularly difficult time I was having with T, someone who had been a close friend but at the time, not so much. It was a long and twisted narrative about betrayal and sabotage. Shawn of the Bread listened closely, and at the end, he said, “sounds like T is a taker.” I didn’t quite understand.
“There are givers, and there are takers. You’re a giver,” he said, pointing to me, “and that T is a taker.”
At the moment, I remember thinking that analysis was way too simplistic. Of course, I enjoyed the part where I was the giver–i.e, the good guy–and the other guy was a taker–the bad guy, but I didn’t find the analysis all that useful.
However, I immediately incorporated that binary concept into my own assessment of other people. Givers were generous and takers were selfish and greedy. I started thinking of everyone I knew as givers or takers, nice people or toxic people.
It’s a decade later, and Shawn of the Bread’s theory of “givers and takers,” is fully incorporated into how I see other people, but my understanding is has evolved. I now understand “givers” and “takers” in terms of energy. Now I realize there are certain people who energize me; these are the givers. Similarly, there are takers who take energy away from me; either I spend energy to be with them or they’re actively sucking energy away from me.
Obviously I’d rather be around givers, and I’d rather see myself as a giver. Obviously. On my best days, for the majority of people, I think I am a giver. I hope I am.
Here’s the hard part; sometimes I know I’m a taker. I know people have to spend energy on me. Sometimes I feel myself actively sucking the energy away from them. I don’t like it, but I see it happening, and I’m not always sure how to stop it. Those are bad days. That’s not who I want to be.
Back in Shanghai, I didn’t know how to respond Shawn of the Bread’s analysis about givers and takers. Now I see that back then, with T, I was a taker.
So what do I do? On days like those, I have to figure out how to be a giver again.