Jim Rohn: On Giving

The late Jim Rohn, entrepreneur and inspirational speaker, said that we human being don’t give magnanimously. It’s not our nature. But the enlightened among us give without expecting anything in return…knowing that the universe will repay our kindness.

I heard Rohn’s words at a time when I was wondering whether I was helping people for the right reasons. I wondered whether I was doing it selfishly for the psychic rewards I was getting (and they were many) or because the person needed help. 

Mr. Rohn’s words put everything into perspective for me. I realized that the help I was giving wasn’t transactional in nature. It was given without expecting anything in return from the other party. And, yes, I get rewards from the universe that are multiples of what I had given.

Let’s explore these two alternatives, transactional giving and giving without expectation, to see what impact each has on us and those whom we help.

Transactional giving

When we give while expecting something in return from the other person, we take our actions out of the realm of gift into the more impersonal feel of an exchange. The problems that this approach creates are:

  • Diminished joy
  • Disappointment
  • Delicate relationships
  • Diminished self worth
  • Bitterness
Diminished joy

The joy normally associated with giving is lost…to both parties. The “giver” doesn’t feel the joy of giving a gift. Nor does he see joy in the recipient’s reaction to his “gift.” Indeed, he’s more likely to see resentment because none of us likes receiving an unsought “gift” knowing that there’s an expectation of reciprocation on the part of the “giver.”


Because the recipient resents the expectation of the giver, he typically does not reciprocate which leads to the giver’s disappointment. I often hear transactional givers say “I’ve given [gifts] to [a person] and never gotten anything in return.” That’s because the “gift” wasn’t a gift; it was a transaction. It had strings attached. While the giver may feel that he’s giving a gift, he’s really trying to create an exchange where none was sought.

Delicate relationships

Transactional giving does not bode well for relationships. Solid, long-term relationships are built on mutual care and concern. These are not the emotions elicited when giving is transactional. There’s no sense that someone cares for you when there’s an expectation that you reciprocate.

Diminished self worth

People who give transactionally are frequently disappointed in the result…and they take their disappointment personally. They feel that others are taking advantage of them. They feel that others’ don’t care about them and certainly don’t value their gift. Over time, transactional givers feel unappreciated and undervalued which diminishes their self worth causing them to strive even harder for others’ approval. These feelings intensify their transactional approach to life, which leads to further disappointment. The harder they press the more the other party resists.


The longer these experiences continue the greater the likelihood the giver will become bitter. Their disappointment, resentment and declining sense of self worth combine to make them bitter. They feel that life isn’t fair. They feel that other people are egocentric, uncaring and generally deplorable human beings…never realizing that their approach to giving is what elicits the responses they get from others.

Giving without expectation

Let’s contrast the transactional givers experience with that of those who give without expectation.

People who give without expectation experience the joy of giving. They love seeing the other person’s face light up as they receive the gift. They enjoy the sense that the other person is looking for ways to reciprocate, not because it’s expected…because it’s not expected. The giver is inclined to continue giving because of the joy it elicits. The recipient wants to give, to pay forward, the kindness they’ve received.

There is no disappointment because there is no expectation. There’s no diminished self worth. Indeed, the giver’s self worth is enhanced as a result of their generosity. The recipient’s self worth is enhanced because they know that someone cares about them…about their welfare.

Solid, long-term relationships develop quickly when people given without expectation. A kindness shared creates a strong bond between both giver and recipient. The giver wants the recipient to experience joy, the recipient wants to bring joy to the givers as well. And joy elicits a desire by both parties to share their joy with others as well.

There’s no bitterness because there’s no expectation. Indeed, both the giver and the recipient feel good about themselves and each other which then extends to their feelings toward others as well. The sense that both giver and recipient have is that people, in general, are good and deserving of their respect and their help. 

For you

My goal in writing this blog is to help you evaluate your approach to giving based on what you are experiencing. If you’re in the habit of giving without expectation, I know that you’ll continue the practice because the psychic rewards are great.

If you find that you’re a transactional giver, take heart. You can retrain your mind away from this mindset. It will take a little time, a few weeks, but each morning shortly after you rise, remind yourself that today you’re going to help others without expecting anything in return from them.

At the end of the day, shortly before retiring to bed, review your successes during the day. Pay particular attention to the joy you experienced, the joy expressed in the recipient’s face, the sense of having made a positive difference in someone’s life. You’ll find that these memories create a desire to experience this joy again and again and again…each and every day, multiple times a day. And you will when you give without expectation.

You’ll also experience good things, completely unexpected things, that are often referred to as good fortune. Things just seem to work out for you. In Jim Rohn’s language, it’s the universe repaying your kindness. Yet another reason why you’ll regularly give without expectation.

For our kids

When you see kids using a transactional approach to giving, ask them:

  • How did you feel when you gave that gift? Did you experience joy or anticipation?
  • Did you get a sense that the other person appreciated the gift? Or did they seem put off or possibly resentful?
  • How often have you been disappointed when others’ didn’t reciprocate?
  • How does the lack of reciprocation make you feel about yourself?
  • Are you bitter, down on human nature, because others’ don’t repay your kindness?

As they consider these questions, they will typically realize that it’s their expectation that’s creating the problem. If not, share your experiences of giving without expecting anything in return…and the wisdom of Jim Rohn’s words.

Feel free to share this blog with those you feel would benefit from this message. It’s an easy way to say “I love you. I’m thinking of you.”

I love hearing your thoughts and experiences, share your wisdom in a comment.

If you’d like to enjoy great confidence, check out our Confidence Self-Study programs (opens in a new link) (opens in a new link). 

If you’d like to enrich the lives of others by teaching them to be more confident, check out our Teaching Confidence Instructor Certification program (opens in a new link).

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