In the spirit of the Christmas season, I have been thinking about how we give to others and how we can sometimes lose ourselves in the process. I used to want everything to be “right” at Christmas time. In an effort to make Christmas “perfect,” I used to do all the shopping not only for the presents I would give out, but for my whole family. I started by helping my grandmother buy everyone else’s presents, which I enjoyed and was more than willing to do as she was in her late 80’s, virtually blind and almost bedridden. But then, in an effort to have everyone happy with their gifts, I escalated to buying my mother’s and sister’s presents for everyone in our family, which even included buying my own gifts from them. Not only was I losing myself in all this “giving”, but I was getting resentful. I was also depriving them of the gift of giving. It came from a good place – or so I thought – but in the end, I was miserable because the pressure was too great.
I find that so many people derive happiness for themselves only when others are happy, and they will do anything to control this situation. In the above example, I wanted everybody else to be satisfied with what they received so I could be happy. I saw it as my responsibility to make everybody happy. However, in truth and with hindsight, it was not at all my responsibility what my sister gave my mother; it was hers. I was getting involved where I really should not have been.
So, we want to give to charities, others, and our families, but let’s give ourselves permission to give from the heart. Because we want to, not because we think we have to. This makes the experience far more genuine and fulfilling for the giver and receiver. If we feel ourselves giving to prove we are good people, or because we think we have to, then we need to step back and rethink our motives. Who are we really doing this giving for? If it is to quell our anxieties, because we are afraid to say no, or to try to impress others, we are not actually giving. We are taking.
So this season, give from the heart...because you want to.