Today, I’d like to take a closer look at giving. At first glance, it seems simple enough. Right? Erm … not quite. Have you ever given a gift to someone—a loved one, perhaps—and felt disappointed at their less than thrilled response? Or, even worse, discovered a while later that they re-gifted it? It doesn’t have to be a gift; it can be help you’ve offered or given and can take many forms.
They key is in your attachment to the offering. If you’ve kept hold of it, you haven’t given it, not truly. You’re still holding on. Also, if the person didn’t ask for it, then what right do you have to be hurt or upset if they don’t greet you with gratitude?
Once we’ve given something, whether that be a gift, our time, or assistance, we need to let go of it. We need to sever all ties. We need to cut the strings. Only then can it be properly given. What the recipient does, isn’t any of our business. Just like Monday Musing Part Four, on judging, it affects them far more than it affects us.
Anytime we’re tempted to give help or a gift, we need to take a look at what’s driving us. As paradoxical as this sounds, the wrong kind of giving can be selfish. Sometimes, the seemingly generous act is more about us, the giver, than the recipient.
Are we giving because we want to give, or because the person actually wants something from us? To flip this on its head a moment, to let someone help you can be an act of generosity. When I first became disabled, I resisted help, being fiercely independent. It took time, and a little pointing out from my Zen teacher, for me to realise that always rejecting that help was a selfish response. People wanted to assist and make things easier for me, and who was I to stop them from expressing that generosity? So, to accept a gift is also to be generous.
To summarise: When we give, we have to let go. The recipient’s response is none of our business and doesn’t affect our offering. The only thing that can affect that offering is our response. Our motives. Intention is an ever-present, ever-important facet of life. It underpins our every action. It affects the way we feel about something.
Remember, when a person accepts something from us, they’ve given us an opportunity to be generous. To show love or caring. From that perspective …
In the wise words of Zen:
‘The giver should be thankful.’
If you’ve missed my previous Monday Musings, you can find the links below: