The Art of Giving
When we give cheerfully and accept gracefully everyone is blessed.
I love giving to others. I love the search for that perfect item that I know will make the receiver gleam. I love going into a store and seeing something and knowing that “so-and-so” would absolutely love this and then just getting it for them. I love watching their face as they unwrap the gift and they light up because the gift speaks to their heart. It really warms me when this happens.
I love giving of my time; listening to others and helping where I can. I am fortunate to have found myself in a career that allows me to do just that: add value to others’ lives; and it’s really rewarding. In my work I get to spend time with people counselling or coaching them; I get to play an important consultative role to my colleagues helping them be more effective; I get to develop and facilitate training and through that impact peoples’ skills; I get to design and implement career development programs and watch people grow in both expertise and confidence. I know that I get to impact many peoples’ lives positively every day and I am so grateful for that privilege and opportunity.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because I want to paint myself as a saint? To be recognised for the good I do? To draw attention away from my flaws? If you had asked me a few years ago, the answer to all those questions would have been “yes”. Well a few a years ago I may have lied and said “no” but the truth is that those reasons were all, ashamedly, very true.
The definition of a gift is giving something without expectation of receiving something in return. Gifting should never be transactional. But how often is our gifting in fact just that. How often do we compare gifts? How often do we feel pressured to ensure our gifts measure up to what we expect to receive? How often do we keep tabs of what was given against what was received? How often are favours given with the understanding that the favour must be returned when needed? We treat favours and gifts like a bank account with a debit and credit balance.
The commercial nature of gifting is also contrary to what gifting should really be about. Why do we designate certain days for gifting – birthdays, Mothers’ Day, Christmas etc. Why should one be obliged to give a gift on one of those days? Doesn’t a gift mean so much more when it is given unexpectedly rather than because tradition dictates that it be given today. Isn’t it more meaningful to give something just because “I was thinking of you” or “I knew you would love this.”
Although, I’ve never been one to count gifts and favours; it was still for a long time a transactional activity for me. The time and effort placed in a gift was superficially with the other person in mind; but ultimately the motivation was a means for me to buy love. I think that for me the need to be accepted and liked and ultimately loved was the underlying drive for my altruism. My self-esteem was so broken that I could not accept that I could be loved just for being me. I needed to earn love and acceptance.
Sadly, we live in a consumerist society, where there is commercial incentive for us to never feel good enough. We are constantly chasing something to make us feel up to par with what we have been led to believe is this gold standard to attain; and only then will we be good enough. This gold standard moves constantly out of reach. Our gifting culture has falling victim to this constant chase. Until society can heal and we can learn to let go of this chase, will the advertising and marketing campaigns constantly exploit our need for acceptance.
When I started my journey towards happiness and learning to love myself, the act of giving changed for me. It is incredible how when you value yourself and don’t need to rely on outside validations; when you are able to love and accept yourself with no concern for how others see you (or how you perceive them to see you), suddenly gifting becomes truly altruistic. One cannot have true understanding and compassion for others; and really give with their needs foremost in mind if one does not have understanding and compassion for oneself.
How one gives is a direct reflections of how one values and loves oneself. People who love and accept themselves tend to focus much of their gifting on those that have very little, or are impoverished, who maybe can do very little in return, or whose acceptance may not be seen as valuable as others’ acceptance. They tend to give a lot more anonymously; and pay little heed to the financial value of a gift – sometimes giving of their time just to listen, which can be the greatest gift a person could receive in that moment; sometimes they need to stretch financially to help someone – remembering that no one ever became poor by giving.
Today my gifting looks very different to that girl from a few years ago – and as with many things in life, gifting is a great paradox; when you don’t focus on the reward for yourself, it turns out to be so much more rewarding.
We make a living by what we get.
We make a life by what we give.
It’s easier said than done
I was exceptionally fortunate to be in a position of being surrounded by great support when I went through this life-changing journey. Perhaps had I not had that support, things may have turned out differently; and today, I could be bitter, negative, sad and living a life of little meaning. It’s my mission to share what I have learned the hard way, so that you too can find the meaning, fulfillment and joy you deserve.
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What are your thoughts?
I would love to hear from you. What has your experience been with this topic? Do you have some tips or strategies in addition to the one’s mentioned above? Maybe you have a burning question? Perhaps you have the solution to someone else’s question.
The best growth and learning comes from engagement and sharing, please comment below and share your thoughts, questions and personal experiences.