I’m a Getter AND a Giver

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by Naomi Watkins

The December issue of the New Era, the church magazine for young women and men ages 12-18, includes a short article asking readers, “Are you a getter or a giver?” and includes the following illustration:

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Looking at the illustration of the two young women, the young woman on the right is wearing her Young Women medallion, she’s carrying her scriptures, her body is more covered than the young woman on the left. Her facial expression is one of upward, wistful eyes with partly-opened lips. The pigeon-toed stance makes her look a bit unsure and passive. The questions show that she’s more concerned with others than herself. And the young woman on the left? She’s posed with her arms crossed, looking closed off, her hair is cut in a bob rather than the hairstyle of a younger girl, her skirt is shorter, and she’s carrying a purse because she’s more worldly-minded? The questions surrounding her show that she’s more concerned with herself than with others.

Apparently it’s the young woman on the right who is supposed to be the model–the one young women need to aspire to be–always thinking about others rather than themselves, always sacrificing, always thinking about how opportunities to serve benefit those around them rather than considering their own opportunities for development and betterment.

But I personally don’t want to be that young woman–or the other for that matter.

I can both give AND get. It’s called moderation. And balance. Being only a giver OR only a getter is detrimental to one’s mental health, to one’s life path, to one’s influence, to one’s divine nature, to the full embodiment of what it means to be daughters of Heavenly Parents.

I want to ask myself, “What blessings will I receive from the temple (and not just a temple marriage)?” AND “How will my temple covenants and attendance bless others?” I want to consider, “How will a mission help me?” AND “In what ways will I be able to serve others on a mission?” I want to contemplate, “How my church attendance shows devotion to the Lord AND what I personally gain from my church attendance.” In this case, I want it all–and God says that this desire can be so if I ask Him (Matthew 7:7).

Think too much of ourselves and we miss out on how our talents and service can improve and benefit the world. Think too little of ourselves and we spend all of our time, effort, energy, and money on the dreams, talents, and gifts of others. Our own unique dreams, talents, and gifts lay dormant, may wither, and may be curtailed from ever being discovered.

Think too much of ourselves and, yes, we may become selfish and entitled. Our identities will be defined by what we do. Think too little of ourselves and eventually we have nothing to give–we’ve lost our individual identities and may live our lives through the lives of others.

As psychotherapist and family therapist, Dr. Julie de Azevedo-Hanks states, “Healthy human beings have to consider both getting AND giving. This presents the only options for girls as either a selfish b?&^% (the getter) or a humble doormat (the giver). The humble doormat looks to others to validate, fulfill, and prop her up which ironically is SELFISH. This is so dangerous. I have seen hundreds of women who end up empty and without a sense of self and get sick and then suck the life out of everyone around them.”

While the illustration doesn’t address education, I have seen this self-sacrificing rhetoric play out in how we (our LDS culture) discuss women’s education. We frame women’s education not in how it will benefit women, but how it helps others: “How will our educations help us be better mothers? Better wives?” Rarely, if ever, do we ask, “How will our educations empower us? How will our educations help us provide for ourselves? How will our educations provide us with more opportunities and choices?”

The rhetoric is no different when it comes to women and careers. We frame women who work as women who must have to work due to singleness, divorce, a husband’s death, disability, or loss of employment. This frame does not create space for women who are framed as “getters”–women who work because they find fulfillment in their careers and empowerment in providing for themselves and their families.

When we present young women with two binary options, we create divisions, we create sides, we create confinement, we contribute to depression and lack of fulfillment.

It’s when we are able to fully embody ALL that we can be, all that we are, all that we can give to ourselves and to others, that we find wholeness, we find integration, we find moderation, we find unity, and we are truly able contribute to building the kingdom of God.

That is the message I wish the New Era shared with our young women AND men.

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Be a giver AND a getter. Be strong AND very courageous. Embrace your AND.

23 Comments on “I’m a Getter AND a Giver

  1. Wow, this was an amazing article. Thank you, thank you, thank you. My ears have been starving to hear this.

  2. Does a girl or a woman get to think they are better or more spiritual than others simply because they have a Young Women’s Medallion? It seems odd that the medallion itself was mentioned, as it is NOT something that increases spirituality and should NOT be a factor in how spiritual someone may or may not be in their life. Working through the values increases spirituality even if you don’t get the medallion as long as some things are learned from the work. If someone is doing the values simply so they can get the medallion and look down on others for not having one, it’s probably better that they invest their energies in other activities. I mean, while it is nice to get the medallion, people shouldn’t get to judge themselves or each other over whether or not they have it, as everyone is all loved by God and Christ equally and are looked upon by their hearts, not by the absence or presence of a piece of jewelry.

  3. I am so glad you wrote this post. I saw that image in my Facebook feed and had some of the same concerns. I personally really like the girl on the left (and probably identify more with her). Thank you for lending your thoughts and words to this post. You always speak intelligently.

  4. Thanks for the great article! I agree that there should be a balance between giving and getting.

  5. Boy, do we ever create sides. And I nearly always found myself on the “bad side” in Relief Society conversations.

  6. This is soooooo important! Thank you for articulating this so clearly, and in a way that recognizes that we all need the AND in our lives.

  7. I agree with many things in your article, and I think the writers of the original article did, too. They actually said do both. But there is a spiritual maturity that comes with being able to do both, and naturally most people tend to focus inward rather than outward. I think this article was just trying to help teens find another level to their spiritual maturity. I honestly don’t know why they chose to draw the drawing the way they did – because both of them are beautiful and fine. Maybe that’s why they drew them that way, because they ARE both fine. Yes, there can be a lot of judgments made about what people’s intentions were, but I think it’s probably just supposed to be an encouragement for teens to become more focused outside of them. Especially since the teen years are the ones when their brains are transforming from mainly egocentric thought to more abstract thoughts with wider perspectives.

    NO to extremes, YES to moderation in all things; loving self so you can love others as well; progressing spiritually inwardly so we can serve others outwardly. Very inspirational article.

    • I would have liked it if the images belied the thoughts. Many times we can look one way on the outside and have thoughts that are not in alignment with the image we portray to the world. It would have caused more thought I think had it been the other way around. And, I think it would have been less likely to “create sides” as one post suggested. Thanks for your thought-provoking article and all of the intelligent and reasoned comments.

  8. I don’t think the Ensign article was saying you can only be a giver or a “getter”. I think they were talking about what we focus on first or the most.

    I think it all comes down to what Jesus taught on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:24) — we can’t have two primary focuses. We can, however, have a “Primary” and “Secondary” focus. It’s like the first and second great commandments — the first is to love God with all our heart / might / mind / strength, and the second is to “love our neighbor as thyself”. Elder Neal A. Maxwell explained about the relationship between these two commandments:

    “Now, we don’t think about it enough in the Church, but the first commandment is first for a reason. And the second commandment is second for a reason. True, the second commandment is like unto the first, but it isn’t the first commandment. We worship the perfect object of that first commandment, God, because of His spiritual supremacy. We do not worship our neighbors. We are to love them but not worship them. This recognition of God’s supremacy on all counts is why that commandment is first and why it is completely safe for us to submit to Him.” (Ensign, Aug 2000)

    Elder Lynn G. Robbins also illustrates this concept and the effect of our primary / secondary focus in a devotional he gave at BYU Idaho in October 2010:

    http://www2.byui.edu/Presentations/Transcripts/Devotionals/2010_10_12_Robbins.htm

    It all comes down to what we put first. If our primary focus is inward, (or if our primary fear isn’t getting enough) , then we can’t truly give the only thing that really belongs to us and the only thing He asks of us. As Neal A. Maxwell puts it,

    “The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!

    “Consecration thus constitutes the only unconditional surrender which is also a total victory!” (Gen Conf, Oct 1995).

    • The problem with your example, shoots the moon, is that the first commandment is about putting God first, while the diagram has instances where it asks the young women to put other people first. Serving others is also serving God, but as you quoted Elder Maxwell saying, we should not worship others. Loving others does not always mean putting them above ourselves or their needs above ours. It says to love others as we would ourselves–that means having proper self care and self esteem along with serving and caring for others.

      JA, I find most young women in the church actually sacrifice a great deal and feel guilty doing anything for themselves. This only gets worse as they take on a spouse and a family, if that is what they choose to do. I would argue there are more women suffering and beating themselves up for not being good enough than those who are complacent being utterly self-involved. Also, the women are both beautiful (and thin, and white) but there is a stark difference between the two that sends a terrible message to young women–the one on the left is modest but apparently not modest enough, is not meek enough, should be made to feel guilty for buying herself a nice purse or standing in a tall and confident way.

      The author makes a valid and important point about moderation versus black-and-white thinking–a point the creators of the graphic should have made themselves. This is not the way to bring young women closer to God. It’s a good way to make them feel worse about themselves in a world that already demands so much of them.

      • “He (the devil) always sends errors into the world in pairs–pairs of opposites…He relies on your extra dislike of one to draw you gradually into the opposite one. But do not let us be fooled. We have to keep our eyes on the goal and go straight through between both errors. We have no other concern than that with either of them.” (C.S. Lewis)

        I think we’re dealing with one of those “twin errors” situation here. One side says being a giver means never asking or receiving any help and spending all energy on any person with any need whatsoever regardless of their own personal state (covert self-centeredness), and the other side says they can be both “givers and getters” and retain their focus on themselves (overt self-centeredness). Following the Lord’s pattern of giving doesn’t mean you neglect caring for one’s self, any more than episodic giving means that one has put off their prideful enmity fro God.

        The only safe passage through the “strait and narrow” is, as Elder Maxwell puts it, “…a church that makes specific demands of us and gives us specific things to do and marks the strait and narrow way, lest we fall off one side of the precipice or the other.”

        Did you know the natural man can still survive intact in an environment of either too much, to little, or giving in the wrong order and pattern? It is only through the right amount in the correct order and priority can it be truly put off.

        Elder Dallin H Oaks warned against those who would give too much (to the point of being unhealthy and “beyond the mark”:

        “We are commanded to give to the poor. Could the fulfillment of that fundamental Christian obligation be carried to excess? I believe it can. I have seen cases in which persons fulfilled that duty to such an extent that they impoverished their own families by expending resources of property or time that were needed for family members.

        “… Some persons have a finely developed social conscience. They respond to social injustice and suffering with great concern, commitment, and generosity. This is surely a spiritual strength, something many of us need in greater measure. Yet persons who have this great quality need to be cautious that it not impel them to overstep other ultimate values. My social conscience should not cause me to coerce others to use their time or means to fulfill my objectives. We are not blessed for magnifying our calling with someone else’s time or resources.” (“Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall”, Ensign, Oct. 1994).

        And Elder Maxwell also warned about those who do give, but may not being giving enough, including giving of the only thing that really makes a difference:

        “Once the telestial sins are left behind and henceforth avoided, the focus falls ever more on the sins of omission. These omissions signify a lack of qualifying fully for the celestial kingdom. Only greater consecration can correct these omissions, which have consequences just as real as do the sins of commission. Many of us thus have sufficient faith to avoid the major sins of commission, but not enough faith to sacrifice our distracting obsessions or to focus on our omissions.

        “Most omissions occur because we fail to get outside ourselves. We are so busy checking on our own temperatures, we do not notice the burning fevers of others even when we can offer them some of the needed remedies, such as encouragement, kindness, and commendation. The hands which hang down and most need to be lifted up belong to those too discouraged even to reach out anymore.”

        “…God seeks to have us become more consecrated by giving everything. Then, when we come home to Him, He will generously give us “all that [He] hath” (D&C 84:38).

        “… The submission of one’s will is really the only uniquely personal thing we have to place on God’s altar. The many other things we “give,” brothers and sisters, are actually the things He has already given or loaned to us. However, when you and I finally submit ourselves, by letting our individual wills be swallowed up in God’s will, then we are really giving something to Him! It is the only possession which is truly ours to give!”

        “Consecration thus constitutes the only unconditional surrender which is also a total victory!”
        (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1995/11/swallowed-up-in-the-will-of-the-father?lang=eng)

        There is a proper pattern of giving under the guidance of “Wisdom and Order”. I think the best two illustrations of this pattern are given by Pres. Gordon B. Hinckley and Barbara B. Smith.

        “Each of us has a fourfold responsibility. First, we have a responsibility to our families. Second, we have a responsibility to our employers. Third, we have a responsibility to the Lord’s work. Fourth, we have a responsibility to ourselves.” (Gordon B. Hinckley, “Rejoicing in the Privilege to Serve,” Worldwide Leadership Training Meeting, June 21, 2003)

        Sis Barbara B. Smith –
        “Women’s first responsibility for service is to their families, for this is the fundamental priority established by the Lord. It must he their first consideration, and that of all those who call them to positions or seek their assistance in any endeavor; for the building of strong families is fundamental to a strong society.

        “Service in the Church most often should be a woman’s next priority, with service in the community being a third consideration.

        … “Another area of service within the general context of Church service is that of individual compassionate service on a spontaneous, personal basis. It is the kind of watchful care that each woman is expected to give to a neighbor in need.

        … “Only when a woman understands the importance and the enrichment of service and evaluates her opportunities—neither making excuses to avoid service nor overextending herself unwisely—can she enjoy the promised blessings of service.” (Ensign, October 1977, “She Stretcheth Out Her Hand to the Poor”).

        Elder Maxwell, again, with a good rule-of-thumb on knowing when the giving might be out of hand and it might be a good time to check your priorities against the Lord’s pattern of giving:

        “The Lord has given us what might be called the ‘wisdom and order’ and ‘strength and means’ tests. Unwisely, we often write checks against our time accounts as we never would dare do, comparably, against our bank accounts. Sometimes we make so many commitments that they become like the vines in the allegory of Jacob, threatening to ‘overcome the roots,’ including the ‘roots’ of family relationships, friendships, and relationships with God.” (“Wisdom and Order”, Ensign, June 1996)

        “When we run faster than we are able, we get both inefficient and tired. … I have on my office wall a wise and useful reminder by Anne Morrow Lindbergh concerning one of the realities of life. She wrote, ‘My life cannot implement in action the demands of all the people to whom my heart responds.’ That’s good counsel for us all, not as an excuse to forgo duty, but as a sage point about pace and the need for quality in relationships.” (“Deposition of a Disciple”, 1976, Deseret Book)

        • Shoot the Moon,

          I hope that you send this lengthy comment of feedback to the New Era staff writers. The time that you’ve taken to find and share all of these quotes really should not go to waste. They would help if they did decide to do a re-write since the original illustration and article do such a poor job of getting these points made.

  9. There must needs be opposition in all things. It’s natural for us to the be person on the left and it’s our challenge in this life to try to incorporate the person on the right into our life in order to become more like the Savior. In the next life we won’t have the physical and mental limitations that this life has and being the person on the right will not have the detrimental effects that it can have in this life of stress and demands. The message is just to be working on overcoming the “natural man” inherently in us. Finding fault in messages from our church leaders is a sign of apostasy and loosing blessings as a result, so, YES the person who wrote this is neither one.

  10. @Colette Actually, in the LDS church it is NOT natural for a woman to be confident. When it had been constantly iterated in the past the endless list of righteous acts we must do, the submissive self-sacrificing personality we must have, and that NOTHING is as important as motherhood-so your education/goals/dreams are put on the back burner or in a box the second you have a child. . . A confident woman, of reasonable intelligence and critical thinking skills, who looks at multiple aspects of life/spirituality/etc is scary/intimidating, and is often villainized as an apostate for the simple act of following the life plan God created for her, and for fulfilling the measure of her creation. Essentially, a woman who sees herself as more than an infant incubator and a housemarm is anathema.

    The leaders of the church are humans, NOT GODS! We must use our critical thinking skills, and the Holy Ghost, to decide for ourselves rather than follow as sheeple. The author of this post quoted a frequently publicized mental health professional. I think that if you worried more about the mental health of the Young Women you have contact with, and less about the possible apostasy of someone whom you obviously have contempt for, there would be a significantly greater amount of joy and hope in your life.

  11. Colette Bytheway Hamer: WOW, your last sentence was a huge leap of hatred and judgment on to a person who was expressing a point of view that others have agreed with here on this forum. Lighten up. We have been told we can question and have meaningful discussion to help each other sort through questions. I did not look at this as fault finding but asking for a healthier and more balanced way to express their message. This forum helps us learning about others’ points of views within the gospel frame work about education and other topics. We are all different, children of God that come from different backgrounds, from all around the world, with different life experiences along with different levels of understanding of gospel doctrine. Then add Mormon culture to the mix and it is hard for some to sort things out what is the true picture of a good Mormon woman. That one and only perfect picture of a good Mormon does not exist because God made us different, each one of us. So each of our “pictures” will reflect how God see us, living out our lives in goodness and faithfulness with our own God given ways. Your last sentence make it difficult, if not impossible for me and others to express our feelings and questions on the internet for fear of hate w0rds and judgement coming from those who are” protecting” the Church and then suggest we don’t belong. But I am being that brave little girl, pictured at the end of the article, standing up and saying enough is enough with the statement like yours. You are welcome to disagree but I suggest that you follow President Hinckley’s guiding statement that “we should agree to disagree agreeably.” I did find the picture of the girls to be a bit of Mormon cultural and I was bothered that a young woman who may not be perfect, who is still learning, maybe even struggling, could see herself as the left girl. Does that opinion make me bad? No! I noticed that the drawing was done by a man. He probably does not know much about how it is being a female. I thought that is could have been better. It comes down to different points of views. For some it is fine, for others it is not. The Church Magazine is not perfect. Mistakes are made and improvements made because of them. Cultural changes are happening and need to happen to embrace the members world wide. This is part of that growth. I was a teenager convert from Southern California who found it is hard to fit into all the Mormon cultural ideas of what a good Mormon girl/woman should be like. So much to take in with so much pressure to be perfect. Women can say all sorts of things to each other in the name of Church that are not Church Doctrine especially at Relief Society. I found years ago to seek out the doctrine, not the culture. My wish this year is that true kindness and a little bit more understanding along with less jumps to judgement will become the common place, that all are welcome and feel loved and our God given differences embraced. Especially on the internet, where it is so easy to just to let what ever fly because everyone is faceless.

  12. I’m a little confused why this article was written. I’ve been participating in some AMW Facebook discussions and was ‘warned’ by a moderator that my post and the conversation that followed might not be appropriate because I was talking about Mormon culture and the LDS religion. I’ve seen other women moderated and asked to show how their conversation relates to careers or education. Is there a fine line about the purpose of this organization that I don’t understand?

    • Good question. Naomi makes the connection when she writes:

      “While the illustration doesn’t address education, I have seen this self-sacrificing rhetoric play out in how we (our LDS culture) discuss women’s education. We frame women’s education not in how it will benefit women, but how it helps others: “How will our educations help us be better mothers? Better wives?” Rarely, if ever, do we ask, “How will our educations empower us? How will our educations help us provide for ourselves? How will our educations provide us with more opportunities and choices?”

      The rhetoric is no different when it comes to women and careers. We frame women who work as women who must have to work due to singleness, divorce, a husband’s death, disability, or loss of employment. This frame does not create space for women who are framed as “getters”–women who work because they find fulfillment in their careers and empowerment in providing for themselves and their families.

      When we present young women with two binary options, we create divisions, we create sides, we create confinement, we contribute to depression and lack of fulfillment.

      It’s when we are able to fully embody ALL that we can be, all that we are, all that we can give to ourselves and to others, that we find wholeness, we find integration, we find moderation, we find unity, and we are truly able contribute to building the kingdom of God.”

      For more information about the mission of AMW, please see: http://aspiringmormonwomen.org/about/our-mission/

  13. I have issues with this log post. First, “She’s posed with her arms crossed, looking closed off, her hair is cut in a bob rather than the hairstyle of a younger girl, her skirt is shorter, and she’s carrying a purse because she’s more worldly-minded?” is grasping for a fight. Both are modest. Both have scripture bags with a tithing slip (not a purse.) While I agree that getting and giving go hand in hand and are part of a bigger picture, there is wisdom in seeking out motives. If you look to always “get” in life, you will exist in a state of perpetual unfulfillment, needing to fill the void. It is important to help girls develop greater awareness. This is a long held recognition of the natural state of man, not only in the scriptures but you can find quotes by many spiritual leaders and authors on this exact idea: Mother Theresa, Khalil Gibran, Charles Dickens, Winston Churchill, and many others. The New Era article wasn’t intended to create duplicitous young women. But this blog article, in over-reading the author’s intentions, was definitely written to divide the hearts of women in the LDS faith.

  14. I am a (not-so) young single adult and had two thoughts about the article and your response to it. I love that you said that we should be preparing to go to the Temple, and not just to be married in the Temple. I went to the Temple when I was 28. I struggled for a long time with not going because I wanted to go for the first time with my husband and I wanted that to be special for us. I felt that if I went to the Temple without him that I was giving up on me ever finding anyone to spend eternity with. My friend Nancy happened to be my visiting teacher and asked why I hadn’t gone. I told her that I just didn’t feel ready. She quoted Sister (I think) Kristin Oaks, Elder Oak’s wife, who said that going to the Temple was not a consolation prize to Temple Marriage. I know the Spirit guided her in telling me that. I went to the Temple.

    Soon after the members of our Relief Society who had college degrees were asked to sit on a board for a laurel question and answer session about attending college. I was proud to be on that board and sit with these other single sisters who are all successful in our careers. We were teachers, engineers, and nurses. But the girls asked about dating, missions, and marriages. I remembered back to when I was in high school. I never thought I would actually use my degree because I would be married and have a family full of children to raise. I am so glad I am using my degree. I am a high school teacher and I don’t feel at all that I’m biding my time until my RM finally finds me and sweeps me off my feet. I am making a difference in the lives of Heavenly Father’s children. I know that I have been prepared and called to the work I am doing as a teacher. My education will probably continue to bless the lives of others and someday it will bless the life of my husband and children, but it has blessed my life.

    I know Heavenly Father has a plan for me that isn’t a normal pan of one that I thought I’d ever want. But His plan for me has blessed my life. His work and his glory is to bring to pass the Immortality and Eternal Life of man (and woman). Each. Individually. I have seen so many sisters give and give because of thinking we always have to be the giver. We feel we can’t be the getter and it’s not Christ-like to focus on ourselves. We don’t ask for help, we don’t allow others to serve us. We don’t want to be the getter. But Heavenly Father is the only Full-Time giver. We need to be the getter and help Him bring to pass the immortality of others by being angels to them in however He asks of us, but we need to work with Him on bringing to pass our own immortality. We need to be the getter too.

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  17. One more mostly-irrelevant comment: The one of the left appears to be a redhead (dark auburn/freckles). On my mission, I read just about every Ensign issue there was from 1975-on, because my apartments were full of them, and I love to read. Being a redhead myself, I noticed that there was a preponderance of evil red-headed women. I know, I know, bear with me: there were pictures of a violent red-headed woman who was assaulting a police officer (who used the Spirit to calm her down), there were good blonde women doing their visiting teaching and bad red-headed women not doing their visiting teaching. There were bad red-headed girls screaming at their parents and drug addled red-headed teenagers screaming at their parents. Only once or twice was a redhead doing the good thing. Does it really matter? I suppose not. But it’s a thing.

  18. This feels a little bit like the old Mary-Martha argument to me. The Savior said that Mary had chosen the “better part” by choosing to get spiritually fed at the feet of the Master versus helping Martha with the dinner. Martha was so harried being the giver that she didn’t feel she had time to listen and recharge. Maybe she had been messaged from a young age that serving was her only role.

    I always felt bad for Martha in this story (I’m more of a Martha) because, after all, she had a houseful of hungry apostles and the Lord himself! Who else was going to feed all those people if she sat around chatting?? As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to embrace that Martha in me, but realized how important it is to be Mary sometimes. If I never get then I will run out of give. And we’ve all been in that place.

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