“It’s not an old-fashioned if you leave out the bitters.”
Giving is easy, but doing so with sensitivity and care is an art. It’s important to be generous in our giving. That may sound obvious at first – we might even think of the two words as being synonymous – but they are actually quite different.
In this context, generosity has nothing to do with what we give, or how much we give. Instead, it’s the spirit we give in, our intention, motivation and attitude. It’s the kind of giving that makes us smile, filling us with a sense of joy. It’s the kind of giving that opens the mind, allowing us to let go of our own personal worries or concerns. Here are some tips on giving to bring genuine happiness and benefit to both ourselves and others.
There are three types of giving: the giving we do to feel good about ourselves, the giving we do because we expect something in return, and the giving which comes from a place of unobscured kindness. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the latter of the three is not very common. That doesn’t make us bad people and of course it’s much better to give than not to give at all, no matter what the motivation is. But it does give cause for reflection. When we give, is it from a place of pride, insecurity, anxiety or desire…or is it from the place of quiet confidence, of unadulterated kindness, which, just like the blue sky, is ever-present, unchanging, and limitless in nature?
Giving is such a simple thing and yet it’s so easy to get it wrong – and I’m not just talking about handing out the obligatory socks or bubble bath at Christmas. When we give we need to be sensitive to who we are giving to. We need to consider what will genuinely make the other person happy. If we’re giving our time, we need to be honest as to how much (or how little) is actually wanted. If it’s our company we’re giving, we need to be sensitive with how much time we spend listening and how much time we spend talking. Giving is easy, but doing so with sensitivity and care is an art.
It’s assumed that giving is a nice thing to do – something to celebrate, something to enjoy, something to embrace – and yet, very often there is a great deal of discomfort and even embarrassment around giving. But why? Are we worried what the other person will think of us or whether they’ll approve of the gift, sentiment or words? Are we expecting a certain result and therefore feel fearful that we might not receive it? Or is it that we feel so unworthy or insecure that we project that onto the process of giving? Whatever the reason, next time, be bold with your giving…give with every bit of your being, regardless of expectations and fear, and see how it leaves you feeling.
The way in which we give often reflects the way in which we receive, so learning to “give well” is at the same time learning how to “receive well.” It’s important to notice how present we are when someone gives to us. Do we crack a joke, shrug it off, hype it up or play it down? (So much neurosis, so little time!) Next time, stay with it, no matter what discomfort arises when someone gives to you. Be present, appreciate the moment for everything it is…for in that simple act of receiving wholeheartedly, we learn what it means to give.