Monday, August 24, 2009

Giving Without Expectation

This weekend something happened to me that got me started thinking about gifts. I looked up the definition of gift:

Something voluntarily transferred from one person to another without compensation

You see a gift should come from your heart and it should not hold any expectations to it. Nor should it be given because of something someone has done for you. A true gift is not tied to anything. You just give because you want to.

Most of the things we think of today as gifts really aren’t true gifts. You get invited to a wedding or a shower of some sort and you bring a gift because it is expected. It could even be seen as bringing a gift in exchange for food or snacks served at the event. You get invited to a dinner party and you bring a bottle of wine in exchange for the food they cooked for you. You send someone a Christmas gift because they got one for you. You get your boyfriend a really expensive watch for Valentine’s Day because you are expecting an extravagant gift from him. You donate to the “building fund” at church because you are tired of being cramped in to a warehouse with 1000 other people every Sunday.

Now I am not saying these things are wrong or bad. Just the opposite, they are good because when someone does something nice for you or you want the thing you are a part of to be better or you appreciate being included in someone’s big event, then by all means you should give something to acknowledge that. I am just saying that maybe we have started to lose the true meaning of the word gift and confusing our “giving” with counterbalancing or a form of compensation.

“Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” 2 Corinthians 9:7

I think true joy from giving and the receiving of gifts can only come when there are no expectations on the part of the giver or the recipient. And people shouldn’t give because they feel under compulsion to give. That defeats the purpose. It will just bring guilt and resentment on both parties. The giver gives under compulsion and reluctantly and the receiver might not appreciate it as much because that was the expectation they had anyway.

I have been on both sides of this. I have given reluctantly and then complained for years sometimes about all the gifts I bought for so-and-so for her engagement/bachelorette/wedding/baby showers and now she is too busy to even talk to me…do you think she’ll come to my wedding? Do you think I’ll ever get one gift out of her? I have thought before how I got so-and-so a birthday gift but when my birthday rolls around I don’t get anything from them. I have been unappreciative of gifts guys have given me because I was expecting more. (The one I will never forget was a chocolate fish that said “You’re a Keeper” when I was expecting so much more. It was NOT a happy Valentine’s day)

I don’t like feeling like this. I want to bring back true giving without expectations. It isn’t easy because you have to forget about “the rules”. You have to get creative and do things that are unexpected. I have to change my heart to one of a giving and receiving spirit in all areas of my life. I don’t want someone to give me a gift out of obligation or expectations and then feel resentful about it, thus making me feel horrible about it. I don’t want to give a gift to someone expecting something from them and then be disappointed when I don’t get it.

So to start with I am officially letting go of all the resentment I have been carrying around about wedding and baby gifts. And in the future I am only going to give if I really want to. I will turn down those invitations where I know I am just another “gift” to them. I am also going to try to let go of all expectations for birthdays, Christmas, and any other national holiday that has been turned into nothing but consumerism.

This whole thing has been really hard to wrap my head around, but it seemed to be coming up more and more over the years, so these are just my preliminary thoughts on it. All I know is something has to change. What do you think?


Themis0307 said...

I agree with you. My family and I have been contemplating stopping the tradition of gift giving at Christmas because it gets ridiculous (especially because we "children" are now fully grown) and why do we all need to go into debt for a bunch of "stuff"? It's a very difficult decision to make, though, because we enjoy giving gifts to each other. But is it really worth spending so much money?

Great post. Good luck in your decision to let go of your expectations.

Katie said...

I've always semi-disliked the idea of gift registries. It seems so presumptuous, especially when people register for an $800 set of kitchen knives. BUT I also get the practicality of it. It's nice to know what people want so you don't get them something they don't need or already have.

Kelly said...

First, I think letting go of resentment is a great idea. You should only give when you feel it in your heart. I'm so sick of getting stuff for people just because I feel obligated. Good luck!

:: Jenna :: said...

I agree with you completely! Use to be that it was the thought that count. I would always get gifts for friends/family that i put alot of thought in or effort and either find the gifts later stuffed in cupboards of their houses, or never see them again. I use to get somewhat hurt at the thought that they were expecting something worth more, and then one christmas my uncle says the untactful comment. Saying "Why don't we stop getting each other Christmas gifts? We never get what we want anyways" when i heard this comment i was like that takes alot of nerve.

well now i only give when i feel it from my heart and whatever resent or ill feelings i had to not receiving gifts for birthdays etc...I just shun away and enjoy life as best i can without expectations and it works :)

AnnQ said...

What a great post!

I agree on many levels... giving without expectation is a fantastic thing. :-)

Also, since your time and money is so important, it's also a good idea to turn down invitations where you think you'll be just another present checked off of the Registry.

tootie said...

Good post topic! And I agree. A gift should be from the heart and because you want to give it.

I'm going to try to do more meaningful (homemmade, sentimental) gifts for Christmas and holidays, instead of just buying "stuff" for the sake of buying it.

Wani said...

You are so right. I was just working on a post about registries. Its really gotten ridiculous. It used to be we gave wedding gifts because people got married before they'd ever lived on their own and they did not have the essentials needed to start a home together. Now people often live on there own for years (sometimes with their significant other) before getting married. Why then do we still shower them with gifts when they have already established a house and home? Baby showers have become similar. So many people are thrown showers for every child. I am anti-multiple-baby-shower. I have told my friends if I ever have a girl (I have two boys) that they can throw me a hand-me-down shower to help w/ clothes. There are people in our lives that we nearly never see but we still get invited to those all so important b-day parties... I cannot bring myself to go because like you said I feel like we were only invited to another present in the pile. The true spirit of giving is so rare. Its definitely something we should strive to achieve. Thank you for this post.