Does "God doesn't give with both hands" mean that one can't have everything in life?

4 Answers 4


It's a variant on the established idiom give with one hand and take away with the other, an idiom which according to Collins Dictionaries means "to help someone in one way, but also do something which has the opposite effect, for example harming them or preventing them from achieving what they want". In other words, to both help and harm.

Hence your example means God does both good things and bad things, rather than always helping.

  • Do you have any citation that it's a simple variant?
    – chepner
    Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 18:50
  • There's also the biblical passage from Job, "God giveth and God taketh away" which probably adds to the ecosystem of idioms Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 19:29
  • When God isn't busy using his hands for giving and taking away, he uses them to open and close doors. Commented Sep 23, 2022 at 20:04

Children are naturally "gimme gimme", and bad parents go along with it, giving whatever is asked for, even if it figuratively takes two hands to do it.

That paragraph continues: "You're young, beautiful, brilliant. There has to be something you can't have.". Children need limits, not only because limits are good for them, but because they actually feel more secure and loved when limits are imposed.

As they get older, they need to break limits in order to feel and express their maturity and independence. Lenient parenting means that this natural rebellion will take a much more extreme form. If told not to get a tattoo before 18, many teens will, just to prove that they can. Had they instead been told to wear decent clothes and not to let their hair get so long, they'd have grown slightly long hair, worn torn baggy jeans, and not even considered doing something as silly as getting a tattoo simply in order to rebel.

In this case, the person is "young, beautiful, and brilliant", a combination that means that everything is available to them with a wonderful future that requires no effort. But if they are also alcoholic, they will be forced to work hard to achieve that future, and will be forced to develop strong character, which (from a religious point of view) is what life is all about.


It kinda means you can't have it all in life. Take for instance in the bible, the case of Jacob and his wives Rachel and Leah, Rachel had the beauty and was well favored but she was barren, while Leah whom was despised, God blessed her with children. You see, there has to be a balance, so God would still remain a just God by the end of the day. His ways are just perfect.

  • Thank you all for your detailed explanations!
    – Maurice
    Commented Sep 24, 2022 at 4:34

'God doesn't give you with both hands' implies you can't easily and quickly get what you want.

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