This post is not about sharing your talents with the world, although that is a worthy topic.
Instead, I want to discuss the expectations we tend to attach to our gifts and the guilt that sometimes comes along with receiving gifts from others.
While helping others declutter, I often notice how reluctant people are to get rid of gifts, especially those given by relatives or that cost a lot of money. Most of us are unsure what to do with these types of items. Such gifts are not used and take up valuable space without adding any value to our lives. In some cases, we cautiously re-gift or donate, hoping someone will be able to make good use of it. But no matter the course of action, a pang of guilt usually comes along for the ride.
How do we make it go away?
Many times our guilt is self-imposed and unfounded. We hold onto things because we want to spare the giver’s feelings and honor the resources they invested in the gift. Sure, any giver would be delighted to know their gifts are of use. But their goal was most likely to bless, to outwardly express their love and care.
Then there are those occasions when someone asks about the gift. “I never see that _______ I got for you last year. Where is it?” or “How come I never see you wear the ______ I got you?” This scenario is one reason we are so resistant to get rid of gifts.
Maybe we should meditate on what it means to give.
By definition, to give means 'to freely transfer the possession of something to someone.’ But do we really do this?
True gifts do not have expectations attached to them. True gifts are not bribes. Once a gift is given, it is no longer attached to us and becomes the property of whom it was gifted. The receiver now has the freedom to do whatever they wish with their gift. No more guilt.
This is the hard part. Especially when money, time, and energy are spent preparing a gift for someone, only to see that gift never used or go the trash can.
I do not always practice true giving. In the past, I placed too much value on what people did with the gifts I gave them. I equated my value with how useful or thoughtful a gift was to someone.
And I was wrong.
I believe we need to adjust our thinking. Yes, we do want our gifts to be meaningful and useful. I think the trick is to find joy in the act of giving, not the result of giving. Giving is an opportunity to share a bit of ourselves with others, willingly choosing to bless someone else instead of ourselves for a change. If we are still concerned with what happens with our gifts, perhaps we need to reconsider what those gifts are. Instead of physical possessions, we can focus on giving our time, sharing meals, contributing to worthy causes, and more.
Today, I am challenging myself to become a better giver. One that has no attachments to their gifts. One that actually believes it is the thought that counts. I want to fully release my gifts to their recipients, with no expectations or obligations. And I hope you do the same.