The Dangerous Art of Giving

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Takers have no hidden agenda but the generous are far more complicated says Life Coach Carole Ann Rice

Which category do you fall into?  Are you one of life’s givers?  You’ve been painstakingly matching person and present for weeks, searching for the “just so” gift that will ignite halogen glow beams of joy.  It’s not about receiving for you, in fact, a T-shirt printed with “selfless” would do just fine.

Or maybe you are near hysterical in anticipation of opening up those gifts piling up under the tree?  You can’t wait to get what is coming your way.  It’s nice to sit back and let others show their love for you and you’re happy to be appreciated.  After all, you are the gift.

Do you love to stand in the kitchen enjoying vicariously the sounds of corks popping, the laughter bubbling and filling the house with cheer? Or are you right in the heart of the living room raising your glass and blissfully unaware of the hours of blood, sweat and tears of frustration that went into the stuffed mushroom canapés?  You’re here so, hey, let’s get the party started.

Few of us would admit to being a “taker” as we know as a fundamental rule of humankind that giving to others is one of the simplest ways of generating instant happiness for ourselves.  But giving and being a giver is a far more complex gesture than may seem on its festively wrapped surface.  

Giving can be an act fraught with expectations.  On the one hand it can be a gesture to delight others, promote cheer and help people out.  But on the other the subtext can be less altruistic.  To manipulate, to win favor or love, to make or score a point, to impress or shame or fulfill a reluctant duty that breeds resentment in the giver.

In her superb book The Language of Letting Go Melody Beattie comments on the complexities of bequeathal “(Giving) is a fine-lined behavior each of us must seek to understand for ourselves. It is giving that feels good and does not leave us feeling victimized”.

Healthy giving is based on a desire to do in a clean “no strings attached” way rather than from a sense of guilt, pity, shame, obligation, duty or for keeping up appearances. 

In short, we should not pack up our own insecurities and needs in our gift packages and ensure our intentions are clean and honest.    Gratitude is a bonus not the goal.  Whether we choose to give our time, efforts and energy or money, Xbox’s and Top Shop vouchers it should be giving we can afford.  Emotional or fiscal bankruptcy is not an option.

If you find yourself feeling any sense of martyrdom or emotional deficit then you are dealing with faulty goods in your psyche and you need to re-think your motivation.  Don’t bother with customer services.

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