Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Giving Spirit

This is the season to think about giving--all kinds of giving. If you think giving is just something you do with stuff, I have news for you. Giving also comes in many intangible forms:
  • Forgiveness. It's no coincidence that the word "give" is hidden in there. Think of the effort it takes to forgive someone who has upset you. Making that effort is how you give. Avoiding or resolving an escalation of anger is the gift that both of you will receive.
  • Honesty. Simply not lying is a gift. Making the effort it takes to speak the truth can be hard, but that is the effort that you give. Respect and trust are the gifts that result from this effort.
  • Kindness. Being nice to people, whether we know them or not, whether we like them or not, is a gift in and of itself. I'm talking about small expressions of kindness, like at traffic lights, in the office, or in line at the grocery store. Whether we are nice or not, we give gifts. In other words, we can give people the gift of anger by cutting them off, or we can give them the give of not getting angry by not cutting them off. Many gifts are like that--invisible--but they make a difference nonetheless.
  • Humility. It requires conscious effort to put other people ahead of yourself. The effort required is the way you give. The return of kindness and appreciation is the gift that you receive. 
  • Acceptance. It's natural to see others' faults and want to criticize them. It takes effort to let go of these thoughts. That effort is a gift to them. It is a gift to yourself as well, because the more you learn to accept others without undue criticism, the more you will learn to accept yourself without undue criticism.

How many times have you heard the truism, "You only get what you give"?

Well, it's true, but we don't spend our every waking moment acting on it, maybe because we don't see the full scope of gifts that can be given. Sure it's nice to get new toys every once in a while, but mostly we want intangible gifts--we want to be accepted, cared about, care for, respected. The way to receive those gifts for yourself is to first give them to others, so think about ways you can give some of the intangible gifts listed above.

Does it always work? No. Can you always see how your effort comes back to you? No. Is it worth trying anyway? Definitely. Even if only a fraction of your effort is returned in a way you can see and enjoy, that's a real improvement in your life that wouldn't otherwise be there.

If I can give you one gift today, it's the encouragement to start (or continue!) giving these small, intangible gifts to others.

No comments:

Post a Comment