Gift-giving is a complex human story which can either be inspired by the expectation of reciprocity or pure unselfishness. Various religions deem giving as holy, a liberating act taking you out of the self and into the larger context of humanity. And if you feel lonely and stressed, counselors and therapists will advise you to volunteer in order to meet people and get involved.
Basically, there are three styles of gift-giving.
- Someone you know
- Someone you don’t know
- Someone you don’t like
Giving to someone you know sets the stage to reinforce a happy relationship. You think about the gift from the recipient’s point of view, and place a value on the relationship. This type of present involves planning, imagination and effort. You are rewarding another person. Consequently, you are enhancing your own reputation, romancing someone, banking a favor or attracting an ally. Often there are invisible strings attached.
Giving to someone or a group you don’t know makes you an anonymous giver. The act is not about receiving acknowledgement for the thoughtfulness of your gift. The gift is an act of compassion, a spark of genuine concern to help others and put back some goodness in the world. This is the social glue which brings people together for common values.
Giving to someone you don’t like involves loving your enemy – an enormous potential for spiritual expansion. Of course, you could take the low road and make a metaphorical statement about your relationship like giving a set of knives to suggest that you have been stabbed in the back. Another option is to give a gift which highlights a salient weakness like giving a diet book to an overweight person. However, to create harmony out of discord by forgiving this person you don’t like can help you shore up your own weakness. Does the object of your anger/jealousy mirror something about yourself that you don’t like? Do you have a fear or insecurity which you are projecting? Have you honestly assessed your own shortcomings? When you forgive, you achieve equanimity – you get even.
Aim to accomplish all three diverse styles to satisfy the different parts of your personality. Take an inventory of which personality trait dominates. Don’t forget to give yourself a gift.
What type of gift giving will you be doing this year? Share your tips in the comments below!