The Art of Giving

Why do we give gifts? Consciously or sub-consciously and to varying degrees, we use gifts as a way to further our agenda – impress or pacify someone, fulfill an obligation, win them over, one-up the recipient or our competition, score points , call in a favor in the future, use as a tool for guilt and manipulation, earn bragging rights or boost our own ego. When we give with ulterior motives, agenda or expectations, a gift turns into a contract.

Think you give selflessly and without any expectations?

A friend of mine had given an ostentatious gift to his favorite cousin. He may not admit it, but financially, it was certainly a bit of a stretch. While he loved his cousin and wanted to gift well, the gift was mostly about making a statement. The statement was – “I’m successful. I’ve made it. I’m somebody.” His needs were to be respected by his family members and desire to feel important. He was attending to his insecurities.

Say you go out of your way to buy a fairly expensive watch that your significant other has been ogling over for years. They absolutely love the gift, are thankful and everything is kumbaya, for now.

Months later, he forgets your birthday. How quick are we to have thoughts like – “How could you forget? Do you remember that gift I got you last year and how special I made you feel? I had to save up for two years to get you that gift! I did all that for you and you couldn’t even remember my birthday? You’re so ungrateful.”

In reality and subliminally, we gave them this gift because we were hoping and wanting them to make us feel special. We want them to return the favor. In essence, the gift is about our needs and our desires.

Such sentiments showcase we are “giving” with expectations attached to them, without awareness or consent by the recipient. The recipient did not agree that in exchange for the watch, they must remember our birthday every year and also do something to make us feel special. They did not agree to any form of exchange; that’s why it’s a gift!

These everyday scenarios are analogous to us holding the recipient accountable to a contract they never knew existed. They were never given the opportunity to accept or reject the terms of the agreement. And yet, we deem the acceptance of our gift as their explicit sign off to our invisible contract. That’s ludicrous! One party’s signature does not constitute a fully executed contract!

Conversely, the recipient should also not have expectations of gifts in the future. Such expectations include thoughts that gifts will become an annual ritual, and that gifts will be of equal or greater value on subsequent occasions.

The truth is, no one forced us to buy the watch. It was our choice. If we want something in exchange for our “gift,” then we should communicate that to the recipient. And if we decide not to communicate our expectations, then we should not expect anything from the recipient. Clearly, it’s too logical for us to follow through on. It’s no wonder that our nonsensical thoughts and expectations create a world of hurt and pain.

We are the creators of our own pain and heartache.

If we truly want to give, then we should take the time to look inside and be honest with ourselves. Ask yourself –

  • What is my intention in giving this present?
  • What do I honestly want in exchange for this gift?
  • Am I expecting and wanting to see a certain reaction from them?
  • If they do something to hurt me and they are no longer in my life 5 weeks or 5 years from now, will I regret having given them this gift?

When we give, we should give for one reason only – because we want to.

When we give from a place of love and abundance, with pure intentions, and without agenda or expectations, that’s artful giving.

And here’s another thing – how the recipient receives the gift and what they do with it, that’s their journey. Once we give, we let go!


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