Giving and receiving
When we are talking about giving and receiving, we often think presents. Material or non-material presents. Today I dive into a reflection around the happiness in gifts.
Things don’t make us happy! Do you hear these words as often as I do? What a great blessing that we live in a world in which we can speak them. There are many people that live in circumstances in which tangible objects will add very much to their well-being. They will not make them happy per se though.
Some people use that sentence when it comes to presents. They reject the “consuming” and go for immaterial gifts. The good news is that these kind of surprises are fantastic gifts. The bad news is that neither material nor non-material gifts will bring us happiness. Happiness is an inside job.
Well then, what makes a good and happy present? That is a question I started to ask myself a long time ago. If I give a socially correct answer, I would need to say that it would be the gift that makes the receiver happy. But to me that is incomplete. Giving and receiving are complementary. One mirrors the other and together they are a whole.
Giving and receiving are one
Giving from the heart and receiving from the heart belong together to turn something into an act of love and appreciation. Whether we are talking material objects or non-material experiences.
We all know the feeling when a gift is not received well. We feel disappointed and the moment is not whole in and of itself. We bring a screwdriver set and the person says: “Oh that comes in handy for when my cordless driver doesn’t work.” Or we bring a blue scarf and we hear: “Nice, that is a good excuse to buy a matching coat.” Or you gift someone an oil painting course who happens to be allergic to terpentine. You know that your gift came from the heart and yet you completely missed something important.
We also know how it feels to be at the other end when we get something that is total useless for our lives. Like an expensive perfume that you don’t really like. Or a poster that you would never want to hang on your wall. Or someone invites you to a luxureus dinner with your favorite food and you just started a very strict diet on doctor’s orders three weeks ago. You know that the giver missed something essential and you feel bad because you know you can honor the act of giving, but not the present itself.
Both sides of the coin
So if the happiness is not in the material or the non-material. Is it in the thoughtfulness then? In giving someone something that someone really, really, really likes?
Yes and no. As I said above, it is about both the receiver and the giver. Let me give a very extreme example. Say someone is drinking a lot of alcohol and you feel bad about it. That person would be happy for the moment when you give a bottle of whiskey. But you wouldn’t. So the present isn’t right for both of you.
Or someone is a big fan of paintball fighting and you cannot stand the fact that people use guns, not even in a way that might seem harmless, but isn’t in your opinion. You wouldn’t want to gift a paintball club membership. We do not need to follow only the person that we want to gift something. The energy of the whole is which is important.
Appreciation and happiness are not in the gift
Things don’t make us happy. Experiences don’t make us happy. What makes us happy are the material and non-material things that are in alignment with our focus and being in the moment. Which can never come from the outside.
No matter what we give or get, the act and response are in the heart or mind.
How about this situation around a huge material gift: Someone desperately needs a new car since the old one broke down and public transport that is available isn’t great and not easy with a baby and a toddler. Someone gifts a bright orange car. Old with dents here and there, but functioning perfectly and reliable. The response to the gift: “I am ashamed every time I drive around in that vehicle. People will think I am poor, because I cannot afford something better.” And she takes the bus whenever possible.
The same goes for experiences. I know someone who was dreaming about visiting New York for years. Then her sister invited her to come with her for a five day trip. “Wow, that is a nice gift,” I said. The answer? “She’s just making up for the lack of time she has for me during the year. I will enjoy New York, but if she thinks she can buy off her lack of interest in real life with this trip, she is mistaken.”
Also a gift given out of some sort of obligation to gift something that the other person needs or wants, doesn’t carry the energy of love. I remember giving money to someone who could really use it and putting a fair amount into an envelop while thinking “I sure hope he will use it for something important”. That was about me, because of course that person would do that – it was my doubt that made me not feel well with it.
Gifts don’t make us happy – we do
Moral of the story? Gifts are not about the gifts. They are about the energy behind the giving and the receiving. They don’t make anyone happy that isn’t already. They can cause a feeling of well-being when both the giver and receiver are in alignment with the gift.
And that happens when they are in alignment with themselves. Because in each and every example above I am talking about what is given. The present is in the center of the attention.
Yet for happy people the gift is totally welcome, whether it is well chosen or not. For happy people a present chosen for someone else is given from happiness, whether it is well received or not.
It is not about the present. It is about the energy of giving and receiving. It is about what lies beyond the visible.
For happy people a well chosen and received gift is a joy. They can laugh about gifts that were not right for the moment and find a joyful solution for both. Bring it back and get something else. Not cooking the dinner, but going to the sport school together. Enjoying the trip to New York and having an open conversation about the relationship…
Because no matter what the present was – it wasn’t about the present.
Enjoy the presents life give you! – Margot
PS You may like this previous article about receiving…