Giving Means Mutuality and Joy, Not Pain

At Christmastime, there are people who say, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Think about this for a moment.

Giving certainly can be a joyful experience. However, giving does not bring pleasure when it renounces the self. Giving brings joy only when it upholds something about yourself, your desires, your wishes and your values.

Think about the pleasure of putting joy on a loved one’s face. You experience the joy precisely because it’s a loved one – your beloved spouse, child, friend or anyone else you personally treasure.

Think about giving to a charity you believe in. Or donating used but still good clothes or other items to a charity. You feel good about doing it, because it upholds something or someone important to you.

Giving worthy of the name always has a self-interested component of some kind, in that it upholds your personal values or beliefs. Not only is that OK; it’s the way it should be.

Imagine for a moment that you were forced to give your Christmas gifts to people you don’t know. Aside from being resentful, would you still feel the same way when giving the gift? Wouldn’t you feel cheated?

You’d say something like, “I don’t want to give this gift to some stranger. I want to put a smile on my loved one’s face. I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks.”

Beware of the profiteers of guilt. These are the mentalities who push the issue. They’re the ones who claim there should be no selfish, personal component to giving. They’re the ones who will try to “make” you feel guilty by claiming such things as, “The true spirit of Christmas is sacrifice. The only kind of gift-giving that matters is the kind that hurts.”

All of us have heard such toxic ideas somewhere, at some time. Such ideas play out in the form of “tapes” or little memes inside our subconscious minds, emerging as an emotional experience of guilt. It’s important to understand that such guilt is unearned.

Think about yourself as the recipient of a gift. Do you want the other person to experience joy and pleasure at giving you something? Or do you want it done only in a spirit of dreary, selfless duty?

We’ve all heard the expression, “It’s the thought that counts.” The truth in this saying is your connection to the person giving you the gift. “Wow, this person was thinking of me, what I like, what I might enjoy.” The experience of receiving the gift under the tree, or whatever the occasion, has as much to do with this as the gift itself.

Years ago, I heard of someone who gave all his friends, as Christmas presents, donations to a charity. He told his friends, “We all have enough things. It’s time to give to others.”

This was not done by agreement, ahead of time. In fact, his friends had put time and thought into selecting gifts for this friend for Christmas. They were resentful, and also felt somewhat guilty for feeling resentful.

The problem with what this man did? He cheated his friends out of the gift giving experience. Gift giving is mutual. You love to delight the other person, and you love to see the other person delight in delighting you.

It’s not more blessed to give than to receive; nor is it more blessed to receive than to give. This sets up a false alternative.

The amount of joy and pleasure you gain from receiving a gift in no way takes away from the equal (and sometimes greater) joy you might receive from giving. It’s possible to relish both.

It all comes down to mutuality. When you love someone, you wish to express it – sometimes lavishly. Holidays like Christmas provide an opportunity for doing so.

At the same time, when you love certain people, you want to know you’re visible to them. You want to know they’re thinking of you.

Love comes from thinking; it’s an emotional expression of the fact that someone considers you worthwhile and important. Of course you want to receive from such a person, because it helps illustrate how much you matter to this person you love.

Giving and generosity are not about suffering, sacrifice and pain. They’re about cherishing and experiencing joy.

That’s one of the reasons I like the spirit of Christmas. It’s one of the few times people appear to recognize and embrace this truth.

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