There is a saying that we can’t give what we don’t have. On a human level, I have mixed feelings about this statement.
What is our understanding of ‘gift’?
Gift does not mean ‘exchange’. When ‘gift’ becomes ‘exchange’, it loses its unconditional quality – a quality that is natural to authentic love. The idea of gift is that it is symbolic of deeper truths – truths which are commonly invisible. A gift is normally used as an expression or a manifestation of love; love being invisible. When offering a gift to someone, what truth are we really wanting to communicate and to make ‘real’ to them? Giving freely and without ties (translates into offering, and not a mandatory requirement to accept) is to pour out of our inner abundance, that which gifts are intended to represent and also to honour in another. That is, that the person deserves to be loved for the sake of simply being. Nothing more and nothing less. The freedom to give and to receive comes from that interior space in us that no external power has any control over unless it has already been given reign in the heart. If you have surrendered it to something or someone else, reclaim it back. In reality, we actually need very little and all of us equally have the freedom to receive or reject a gift that is being offered to us. Your interior freedom is of itself, a gift that has been offered to you. It’s up to you to accept it, and to use it wisely.
Is there an expectation there that the receiver must return the same sentiments to us? Are we anticipating that the receiver must accept our gift in the first place? If we offer ourselves, our gifts, money, time to someone with hidden expectation or veiled conditions, we levy an abolishment in the freedom of the other person to freely accept our offer of the gift on our part. Every human being ought to be given their freedom to accept or reject a gift, in the order of love. Conditional offers are made from our limited inner resources and are a result of an inner need, which, if left unsatisfied, could wreak all sorts of havoc on our emotional, social and psychological wellbeing. Maturing the act of gift-giving from conditional to unconditional is do away with those expectations and give from inner abundance. We can do very little to manage the expectations of others – how they give and receive their gifts, but we are totally in control of the expectations we ourselves have about the way we give and receive gifts. A genuine, mature act of gift-giving is approached not as an exchange, but as an offering with no strings attached. This includes letting the memory of giving your gift go.
Giving in freedom
How do we identify the freedom of the gift being given or received? The spirit of gifting is to offer freely and without expectation. To give without any conditions to the gift or in the act of giving is to crystalise the motivation behind the gift. The purity of this motivation is worth so much more than the gift itself. Often times, we don’t recognise, and we do even less to acknowledge it, in each other. We don’t need to have much, to be able to recognise depth of gift when one is in front of us.
Gift is you, not what you own.
You are a gift. You are a gift to all the people in your life. You are a gift to society. You are a gift that cannot be replaced or exchanged. Your ability to be a gift to others, although impacted by your past, is not determined by it. No matter what difficulties you have experienced in your life, you still have the capacity within yourself to give so much more than you have ever received. This is why what you own or possess has no bearing on your value (worth) or efficacy as a gift. It is our human calling to appreciate the gift that is YOU and every human being. Some of us are called to go out of our way to make sure the lonely, the marginalised, the excluded and the isolated in society know that.
Society pressurises us into a consumer pattern of Christmas presents, which emphasises the need to buy, and that if we don’t buy, there might be a problem. When will it be enough for us to appreciate each other as the gifts that we are to each other? If I don’t own much, does that mean I am less worthy of being a gift than the next person? Not at all. When I die, I’m not going to be appreciated much for what I own, but for the person I was. My worth is not determined by what I own or possess. You too, are invited to recognise yourself as a gift. For this spell in time, we, and the world, has YOU. And this Christmas, I want to thank you for being you. Even if not in person, our circumstances mean that we have crossed paths. We are still connected.
Outside of Christianity, I find the fulness of these truths difficult to explain. In my life experience, I can reflect that if I give, it is because I have first been given – but that might not have come from any human or natural source. No, we can’t give what we don’t have on a natural level. But we can give from what we always receive on a supernatural level: love. On that level, I have received Jesus Christ, my greatest love. And He is all I freely offer to you this Christmas.
Wishing you a wonderful peace-filled Christmas and New Year.