Gift giving is a sensitive topic. It is on that causes us stress all the year through, with it’s peak of frustration landing in the Holiday Season. The “Joy” of giving often feels like anything but!
True story: I once gave a friend a gift. I was out of town and saw something I just knew she’d enjoy! It wasn’t much… only costing around $10… but it’s the thought that counts, right? So I bought it for her… for no reason but “just because”. I was excited, and couldn’t wait to give it to her.
She loved it, of course, but not too long after that she gave me something almost identical in return. Honestly, I was confused! I felt like the gift had been returned back to me… I couldn’t help but think perhaps the gift was only offered to me in an attempt to keep things even. Sigh.
Have you ever offered to do something for someone in need and yet they declined the favor or said to you “You shouldn’t have!”… and they mean it? I’ve heard someone explain “I don’t want to be beholden!” or “what’s the occasion?”
My mother-in-law Jean was the one who explained the meaning of that word to me. She saw someone giving to her as more of a loan than a true favor… something that would have to be repaid in the future… with interest. Before then I never considered that anyone would feel that way when offered a gift or given a favor.
Perhaps you have been given a gift by surprise and responded “But I didn’t get you anything!” or found yourself saying “No one said we were exchanging gifts!” Immediately we might brain-storm ways to “pay back” any perceived generosity. We often unintentionally rob the joy right out of giving. Truth is, we often have quite a few road blocks in our hearts keeping us from experiencing the joy that would be ours.
Gift-giving gets the most complicated (ironically) at Christmas-time. The expectations are at an all-time high… as is the potential for disappointment. Many families have strict rules for all family members to follow. Unfortunately, when a family member does not stick to the plan… resentment, anger, frustration, or hurt often follows. This is not exactly how anyone wants to feel… especially during the Holiday Season!
This is NOT the cheerful giving that our God intended for us! Our Earthly version is more like a game in which we are all keeping score. “Suzy spent $25 dollars on me for my birthday, so I better get her something around that same price so I don’t look cheap!” We place our happiness and worth in making sure it all stays equal.
Some feel driven to give gifts as if it is a competition. When giving they like to make sure their gift is bigger and better than the others. They seek acknowledgement and recognition for being generous and giving, when in reality they are self-seeking instead. They are most pleased if they outdo everybody else. Perhaps motivated by poor self-worth or identity they seek from others the value that should come from within… or from above.
Sometimes we may give too much and yet get little or nothing in return… we feel unloved and uncared for. We may even at times feel taken advantage of or taken for granted.We tell ourselves “I’m not going to give to them again! They don’t deserve it!” We then cross them off our gift giving list… protecting ourselves from being hurt by them again. Hoping to collect from our offering the love we so desperately crave… only to feel bankrupted and alone.
We are equally stuck if we give too little… some feeling guilty and shamed at not quite keeping up. Perhaps we go to a party and our gift is much smaller or less admired than the others… leaving us embarrassed and eager just to go home. The present offered in an attempt to draw us closer, to show affection then becomes the very thing that separates us from another.
Some may do well at receiving the gifts offered by others, but miss out on true blessings as they neglect to give. Receiving much from others they selfishly keep gifts for themselves. In time, these self-centered “users” and “takers” are often exposed. They end up feeling empty and unsatisfied in life without awareness that from taking advantage of other’s generosity they take from themselves… and often end up anxious and paranoid as they hoard their treasures away.
There are those of us who feel unworthy of gifts from others. Not feeling “good enough” we dread birthdays and Christmas, completely missing out on the happiness that those days can bring! Some may even stop celebrating these days all together in an attempt to not be faced with their poor self-esteem. The sad truth being if we are unable to accept gifts we aren’t open to God’s blessings. In order to receive these we must believe we are worthy and open up a place in our hearts and in our lives for these gifts to come in!
Sometimes because of the fear of not measuring up ourselves, we over-compensate with giving. However, we are often left feeling more insecure than ever… as we miss Giving’s true purpose. Giving is best when motivated not by fear, but by love.
When we give we must give with no strings attached knowing that with strings it is as if there was no gift given at all! I’ve often wondered if those who have a difficulty receiving from others aren’t the same folks who give with the greatest expectations! Fearing others may give with similar demands they are hesitant to accept a gift, fearing the unspoken contract! They miss out on the joy to be had when giving willingly, openly, lovingly with no expectation for anything in return.
We need to reverse our view of giving so we can receive the gifts that God has in store for us! God has a better way for us. Why do we choose to give any other way than the way than God has shown us? This request also comes with a promise that whatever we may give we will receive much much more in return! Its such a beautiful win/win, why would we settle for less? Perhaps we believe on a deep dark level in the law of scarctity… forgetting that this law does not apply to the Spiritual laws of God. Perhaps we forget that Jesus has described for us a much better way.
I believe God show us a better way. Cheerfully. Openly. Lovingly. No longer giving for selfish reasons, we should ask Him for guidance in our gift-giving ways. We should trust Him to speak to us in our hearts for all matters… especially in the ways we give to others. When giving to others we will capture the joy if we always give cheerfully and eagerly with no expectation for even as much as a polite ‘thank you’ in return.
We will find ourselves full of joy if we cut the strings of expectation and lead with love. With God as our giving guide He may at time direct us in ways unexpected. We will know His voice by the Peace in our hearts and the joy that follows. We are the messengers of His unending Love, being used every day as we are open and willing to share His Hope, His Love and His Grace to all who will accept it. Just as Jesus gave His life for us with no strings but that of acceptance, we should give our gifts to others with such love. There we will find our joy.
❤️Ann ‘Not Just A Blonde’
2 Corinthians 9:7: Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.
Proverbs 11:24: One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.
Deuteronomy 15:10: Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.