I’m having surgery on my hand today. It’s pretty minor, but it means I won’t be able to type for a week. Well, at least not in the way I normally type. I could go all Daniel Day-Lewis and create stuff with only My Left Hand, and I would if deadlines demanded it. But they don’t, so I’m taking the week to shift gears.

That means I’m going to read and actually reflect on what I’m reading, which hasn’t happened in a while. And I’m going to brainstorm about future projects, or maybe about just the future in general. Painkillers could be either an aid or a hindrance to the brainstorming process, but either way, the change of pace will be refreshing. I’m not planning on producing a thing. Instead of constant output, I can focus a few days on intake.

That’s a necessary balance, even when something like surgery or sickness doesn’t force it on you. You’ve likely heard the illustration of the Dead Sea, which has water flowing into it but none going out. It’s used often to remind us that we remain alive and fresh by giving, not getting. “Don’t be like the Dead Sea,” we’re reminded by spiritual gurus and productivity experts. But the opposite is also true. If you’re always giving out and never simply receiving, you’re like a river that runs dry. I’m pretty sure a nonexistent body of water is just as dead as a stagnant one.

Speaking of the Dead Sea, I spent a couple days there last week and floated in its thick, salty stew. It’s true that except for a few tourists bobbing up and down, there’s nothing alive in it. Surprisingly, this lifeless place produces some of the most mineral-rich beauty products in the world. I’m sure that’s an illustration for something—God bringing renewal out of death, for example—but it’ll have to wait for another blog post.

Back to the point: I’ve known people who are always taking and never giving, and they live with a sense of self-absorption and entitlement. On the other hand, I’ve known people who are always giving and never receiving, and they are stressed out, burned out, and kind of lifeless. Neither lifestyle is healthy.

It’s true that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. But you have to receive in order to have something to give. No one can be consistently productive without learning to receive and give well. You have to do both. Yet most of us gravitate toward one or the other.

What’s your tendency? Are you an out-of-balance producer or consumer? Or are you one of the few in balance—enthusiastically drinking in and generously pouring out? If you notice signs of entitlement or burnout, be careful. Take some intentional steps in the opposite direction. You need to for your own well-being, and the people around you need you to for their well-being. And if there’s an external force—something that pushes a taker to produce or that forces a giver to sit still and receive—so be it. Whatever it takes to both give well and receive well, it’s worth it.

Click to tweet: It’s more blessed to give than to receive. But you have to receive in order to have something to give.

Click to tweet: No one can be consistently productive without learning to receive and give well. You have to do both. 

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