Saturday, June 22, 2013

Where's the Joy in Giving?

I once gave a friend a gift. I was out of town and saw something I just knew she'd enjoy! It wasn't much... only costing around $10... but it's the thought that counts, right? So I bought it for her... for no reason but "just because". I was excited, and couldn't wait to give it to her.

Not too long after that she gave me something almost identical in return. Honestly, it was a bit confusing to me. I felt like the gift had been returned back to me! I couldn't help but think perhaps the gift was only offered to me in an attempt to keep things even. Sigh.

Have you ever offered to do something for someone in need and yet they declined the favor or said to you "You shouldn't have!"... and they mean it? I've heard someone explain "I don't want to be beholden!" My mother-in-law Jean was the one who explained the meaning of that word to me. She saw someone giving to her as more of a loan than a true favor... something that would have to be repaid in the future... with interest. Before then I'd not considered anyone would feel that way when offered a gift or given a favor.

Perhaps you have been given a gift by surprise and responded "But I didn't get you anything!" or found yourself saying "No one said we were exchanging gifts!" We then immediately brain-storm ways to "pay back" any perceived generosity. Turning gift-giving into more pain than pleasure. Truth is, we often have quite a few road blocks in our hearts keeping us from experiencing anything but!

Gift-giving gets the most complicated (ironically) at Christmas-time. The expectations are at an all-time high... as is the potential for disappointment. Many families have strict rules for all family members to follow. Unfortunately, when a family member does not stick to the plan... resentment, anger, frustration,  or hurt often follows. This is not exactly how anyone wants to feel... especially during the Holiday Season!

This is NOT the cheerful giving that our God intended for us! Our Earthly version is more like a game in which we are all keeping score. "Suzy spent $25 dollars on me for my birthday, so I better get her something around that same price so I don't look cheap!" We place our happiness and worth in making sure it all stays equal.

Some feel driven to give gifts as if it is a competition. When giving they like to make sure their gift is bigger and better than the others. They seek acknowledgement and recognition for being generous and giving, when in reality they are self-seeking instead. They are most pleased if they outdo everybody else. Likely motivated by poor self-worth or identity they seek from others the value that should come from within. Fear of not measuring up themselves they over-compensate with giving, however often are left feeling more insecure than ever... as giving should be motivated not by fear, but by love.

Sometimes we may give too much and yet get little or nothing in return... we feel unloved and uncared for. We may even at times feel taken advantage of or taken for granted.We tell ourselves "I'm not going to give to them again! They don't deserve it!" We then cross them off our gift giving list... protecting ourselves from being hurt by them again. Hoping to collect from our offering the love we so desperately crave... only to feel bankrupted and alone.

We are equally stuck if we give too little... some feeling guilty and shamed at not quite keeping up. Perhaps we go to a party and our gift is much smaller or less admired than the others... leaving us embarrassed and eager just to go home. The present offered in an attempt to draw us closer, to show affection then  becomes the very thing that separates us from another.

Some may do well at receiving the gifts offered by others, but miss out on true blessings as they neglect to give. Receiving much from others they selfishly keep gifts for themselves. In time, these self-centered "users" and "takers" are often exposed. They end up feeling empty and unsatisfied in life without awareness that from taking advantage of other's generosity they take from themselves... and often end up anxious and paranoid as they hoard their treasures away.

There are those of us who feel unworthy of gifts from others. Not feeling "good enough" we dread birthdays and Christmas, completely missing out on the happiness that those days can bring! Some may even stop celebrating these days all together in an attempt to not be faced with their poor self-esteem. The sad truth being if we are unable to accept gifts we aren't open to God's blessings. In order to receive these we must believe we are worthy and open up a place in our hearts and in our lives for these gifts to come in!

When we give we must give with no strings attached knowing that with strings it is as if there was no gift given at all! I've often wondered if those who have a difficulty receiving from others aren't the same folks who give with the greatest expectations! Fearing others may give with similar demands they are hesitant to accept a gift, fearing the unspoken contract! They miss out on the joy to be had when giving willingly, openly, lovingly with no expectation for anything in return. 

We need to reverse our view of giving so we can receive the gifts that God has in store for us! God has a better way for us. Why do we choose to give any other way than the way than God has shown us? This request also comes with a promise that whatever we may give we will receive much much more in return! Its such a beautiful win/win, why would we settle for less? Perhaps we believe on a deep dark level in the law of scarctity... forgetting that this law does not apply to the Spiritual laws of God. Perhaps we forget that Jesus has described for us a much better way.

I believe God show us a better way. Cheerfully. Openly. Lovingly. No longer giving for selfish reasons, we should ask Him for guidance in our gift-giving ways. We should trust Him to speak to us in our hearts for all matters... especially in the ways we give to others. When giving to others we will capture the joy if we always give cheerfully and eagerly with no expectation for even as much as a polite 'thank you' in return. 

We will find ourselves full of joy if we cut the strings of expectation and lead with love. With God as our giving guide He may at time direct us in ways unexpected. We will know His voice by the Peace in our hearts and the joy that follows. We are the messengers of His unending Love, being used every day as we are open and willing to share His Hope, His Love and His Grace to all who will accept it. Just as Jesus gave His life for us with no strings but that of acceptance, we should give our gifts to others with such love. There we will find our joy.

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

Proverbs 11:24One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty.

Deuteronomy 15:10Give generously to him and do so without a grudging heart; then because of this the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you put your hand to.


  1. I love this post! I actually read it earlier on my phone but did not have a chance to comment. Having a receiving heart is really a blessing to others, as well as to ourselves! I am really good about giving with no strings attached - however, there are some people who DO give with strings attached- and that is the hard part. I really don't want a gift if it's going to be held over my head, know what I mean???? I am not sure what to do about that - but I don't ask for things sometimes when I need them because I know that there will be strings attached, and that's a tricky situation to be in (at least for me!)

    1. I understand what you mean! I think it is best to always check our heart and cut those strings of expectation and always be sure we are giving from a place of love... if not it may be best not to give at all. Those that give with strings are often unaware they have tied them... if accepting a gift from someone that you sense has those strings tied to their gift it is best to ask them politely yet directly what the expectations are for you in return If they say none.... we need to trust them. Sigh. It can get tricky... no wonder we are missing out on the joy that pure giving can bring!

  2. This is the most edited and re-edited post in the History of Not Just A Blonde... I could blame my computer, phone or iPad... but truth is it was me. I was editing at separate times on all three devices and it got all messed up! I am hoping what I see up now is the "real deal". :o) Work in progress... work in progress. ;o)

  3. I'm so bad at accepting gifts because I can't help but feel there are strings, even when the person giving doesn't expect anything back! It is definitely something I'm working on because I know how annoying it can be for the people who genuinely enjoy gift giving for its own sake. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. Megan, You are FAR from alone in this! You are welcome.... I think I needed the reminder to so God placed this topic on my heart.

      I have found a fun way to recover from this is to give a few things away yourself... for no reason & with no strings attached. After that, it somehow becomes much, much easier! You remember the joy! I think we rob people of that joy if we forget this. If we receive graciously they are then able to experience the joy that the blessing of giving can bring! By consciously giving this way we will remember this feeling and are less likely to feel guilty accepting gifts ever again! ;o)

      PS I'll likely have to re-read this post around Christmas! LOL!

    2. That's a really good idea! I really only give gifts around Christmas (yes, gift giving/getting stresses me out so much I've made deals with all my friends to not do it for birthdays) and last Christmas it stressed me out so much I almost had a panic attack in Fred Meyer. It was bad. But I think I will definitely see about giving a couple of gifts for no reason. It actually sounds not stressful and fun!

    3. :) Let your heart lead the way... and enjoy! ;)