Giving Without Strings

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Recently I had a change to witness an exchange between a Mother and Son that was very emotional and dysfunctional. Part of the problem concerned giving, or what the Mother called giving, but what wasn't actually giving.

The Oxford Dictionary of English defines give as: freely transfer possession of (something) to (someone): as in "she gave him presents and clothes." Notice that word "freely", that's where the trouble comes from.

Think about your giving history, how often do you give freely, with no expectations, not even a need for a thank you? When you think about it honestly, like me, it's probably not very often. It seems like almost a cultural thing, gifts come with strings. If they don't have strings they carry expectations of quid pro quo. I give you this, so you will behave like that, or, I give you this, so you will give me that.

It seems like this behavior is so ingrained in us that we don't even notice it. Did you ever find yourself saying to someone, I gave you so much _______, can't you even do this for me? That is definitely a stringy proposition. Our expectations may remain unspoken, but they are usually there somewhere.

I remember being very impressed by a passage in the Bible talking about giving anonomously, that made a lot of sense to me. It mainly referred to charity, as I remember, but I think it was also a way to distance yourself from the need for recognition of your giving. It's a very good way to give without strings, not always possible, but when it is, try it.

We know that awareness is the first step in change, so if you think about this and want to change, you're begininng. It's also a good way to decide if you truly want to give something. If you can't give it without lots of thanks, acknowledgement or strings, then maybe you don't really want to. You just may be in the habit of getting things YOU want that way, which is also good information. It can lead you to a better way of getting what you want.

All in all, this is a very interesting subject, lots to be learned by seeing what your patterns of giving are. I can tell you it wasn't working at all for the Mother in question, in fact it was ruining her relationship with her son. Even things that are inherently good can be misused without even realizing it at times, with sad results. I will be noticing my giving, making sure I'm fully aware of my motives, removing any strings, and giving freely – or not at all. This is work that is well worth doing.


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