Most of us recognize that it’s better to be a giver than a taker. Through giving, we emulate the Almighty’s most fundamental character trait. What could be better than behaving like God?

Based on an informal poll of the women I know, most of us consider ourselves givers. In fact, we think we’re pretty stellar in that area.

And we are! But we could all use some improvement and fine tuning.

Here are a few ways we could all step up our giving game.

Giving is about the other person’s needs, not our own. I used to read my children one of Marc Brown’s “Arthur” books in which Arthur attempts to be a superhero in the area of kindness. The only problem: he’s not sensitive to the needs of the others he is allegedly trying to help. He only sees them as an object for his kindness, for his heroism. Grandma Thora doesn’t experience it as kind when he insists on escorting her across the street. She was actually waiting for her friend on the other side of the street! It’s just a children’s story but we sometimes do this in our own lives.

I wanted to visit a friend who was stuck at home after a relatively minor “procedure”. I was very I glad that I called first. “My husband took the day off to be with me,” she said, “and we’re really enjoying having the time together.” If I would have just dropped by, I’m sure she would have been gracious – but it wouldn’t have been an act of kindness from me to her. I would have been emulating Arthur and not the Almighty!

And in more trivial areas, when it comes to gift buying, we often engage in behavior that doesn’t really have the recipient in mind. We may get them what we want or like, but not want they would enjoy. We may see a bunch of gift items on sale and stock up. A real gift requires time, thought and effort. It may be hard to find. But only when we really think about what a friend, spouse, child or co-worker really likes and tailor the gift to them are we truly givers.

From another angle, receiving in an appropriate, gracious and thoughtful manner is also a form of giving. We can hurt someone’s feelings through our brusque, ungrateful receipt of their present, or we can make them feel terrific through our excited, loving and appreciating reaction. The same applies to any act of kindness, not just a gift. We should always respond with gratitude to dinners cooked, laundry done, cars filled with gas...you name it.

Sometimes we are challenged in the area of receiving gifts, particularly from our spouse. Maybe it’s not exactly our type or taste. It’s not what we were hinting at or hoping for. We may be disappointed, frustrated. How do we respond? This is an area where I am in the process of a little introspection and repentance.

I am not very sentimental and I always felt that money shouldn’t be wasted on a gift I really don’t like. So I confess that I haven’t always responded with joy and gratitude to some of my husband’s gifts (we won’t talk about the time I cried! Or the time I got a bread machine for Passover!). And I was wrong.

Because whatever the present, I should be grateful. Whether he listened to my requests or not, my job is to show appreciation. And if got me something that he thinks I would like (based on a perusal of my closet and jewelry box), shouldn’t I just be so thankful for his thoughtfulness and not be frustrated that he hasn’t noticed that I don’t wear that style anymore?

And on a deeper level, why should it matter anyway? It’s not about the object. It’s about the expression of caring. It’s about the love. It’s about the desire to connect and give. So let’s say the (hypothetical of course) earrings are not exactly what I would choose. Couldn’t I wear them just because my husband bought them for me? Just because they’re a symbol of his caring and commitment? Isn’t that more important than whether they’re appealing to me or not?

A true giver isn’t someone who “does it all” but someone who gives with thought and sensitivity and no corresponding expectations. And someone who takes in the same way. I may have to redo my poll...