The Art of Giving
Gift giving is an art form. For it to be meaningful it needs to be done with compassion, sensitivity and wisdom. Some cultures actually delay the opening of the gift and make a ritual ceremony out of the transferring of the unopened gift to the receiver. The surprise gleaned from receiving the contents of the gift is then a second chance to enjoy this giving and receiving event. Many people give a receiver something that they themselves would like. It is important that the gift be something that the receiver either needs, wants, or would welcome. It is amazing how often people forget this very important principle.
There is a very harmful societal belief that is rampant throughout our culture: “Give, give, give…until it hurts.” I have seen many people’s lives destroyed by this way of giving. What I suggest to friends and partners in healing is to let your giving and receiving be roughly equal over time. A person can give without limit as long as they can receive without limit. This means that a person is neither “selfish” nor “selfless”. They are acting on the basis of “enlightened self-interest”. They understand that a person can love another only to the level that they themselves are loved. They understand that love is an inter-active process. It needs a sender, a receiver, and true empathy.
When long-time, successful couples come to my practice and ask how they can love their mate even more than they ever have, I quickly switch the topic to how each of them, as individuals, can become a more loving person. Their mate then becomes an indirect beneficiary. When an individual has reached the point of maximum self-love (Abraham Maslow’s self-actualization), the only way they can continue to grow emotionally and become more loving is WHILE loving their mate. Their relationship can then become the CRUCIBLE of a richer, deeper love.
Some gifts are “keepers”. They are somehow symbolic and represent a long-term cultural connection for the receiver. They are precious treasures to be safeguarded in a sacred space. One of the hypnotherapy techniques that I use in my practice and that I learned from a South American shaman is related to giving and receiving. Essentially it is about keeping all the wonderful traits and “gold nuggets” that you have received from family, friends, teachers, etc. while simultaneously “composting” all the worthless, meaningless thoughts, feelings and traits that you have received from them. They do not have to know that you are transforming the “garbage” into useful material. In summary, you keep the good stuff and compost the bad stuff.
Most people believe that forgiveness is something you do towards another. Every single book, thoughtful discussion, or presentation on forgiveness strongly indicates that it is only possible to forgive oneself. Basically, it is about our own willingness to be “for giving up” something that we have been doing that is hurtful or bad for ourselves or others. A lot of money is made by groups and institutions that urge us to forgive others for what they have done. That is an impossible task. You cannot forgive others. You can only forgive yourself.
A good way to optimize our own physical/mental/Spiritual health is to choose to forgive ourselves for any anger, fears, etc. that we have displayed or engaged in previously. If people do not forgive themselves, they can become prisoners of their own self-imposed chains. They get trapped in their guilt.
“He who cannot forgive breaks the bridge over which he himself must pass” – George Herbert