The Holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, laughter, family and traditions. This time of year is coined “the giving season” and the retailers take full advantage of all the shoppers out there looking to purchase presents at a discount. There are sayings like “it is better to give than receive” aimed specifically at this time of year. But is it?
As I was on the plane to go visit my in-laws for Thanksgiving I was reading an article in my Yoga Journal magazine. It was about a girl who had a hard time receiving. She couldn’t accept a compliment, she had a hard time when someone thanked her and it impacted her relationships. If someone thanked her for something she had done she would reply “it was nothing” which to the person receiving her gifts (whether tangible or an act of good kindness) it WAS a big deal. The receiver felt her responses came off as a discredit to what they had, in their eyes, received.
The article went on to talk about the reasons we give. Often times when we give we do it for the wrong reasons. We do it for a recognition. We do it to make ourselves feel better versus the recipient of the gift. On the other hand as the giver, often times the receiver lets us down. If the receiver receives the gift and they do not acknowledge it, or worse yet, do not say thank you, the giver can become offended. Which is the complete opposite reason why the giver gave the gift in the first place.
In yoga we learn about non-attachment. We are taught to practice without being attached to what the outcome or result will be. The act of giving is no exception. If you are truly able to give – without any expectations of an end result – you will not leave yourself the opportunity for disappointment. You will save yourself from the feelings that may arise if the recipient does not act how you think they should.
As someone that has given and been let down, this is something that I struggle with . I was raised with pleases and thank yous. My sister and I had it ingrained that if someone gives you a gift you say thank you. Not only do you say thank you, you WRITE a handwritten thank you note. When someone does something nice for you, you acknowledge and thank. Always. No exceptions. For to not do so would make us rude. Basically, it’s common courtesy and manners.
Now I realize that my parents raised me to be a stand up person with manners. However, not everyone else is as fortunate as I am in that category. There are people out there that won’t say thank you, they won’t even acknowledge you gave them something or did something nice for them. It doesn’t matter if you spent money or just extended a nice act of kindness, there are people out there that don’t have the same values. It is unfortunate, but not for you, for them.
I am trying to learn how to become a better giver. By taking a step back and letting go of the expectations I have upon people receiving my gifts I rid myself of frustration when the thank you does not come. It will make me less angry and instead make me sympathize for others. It makes me sad that they didn’t grow up with the same values I did and the manners my parents set forth. The lesson I have learned is that I am a good person for extending acts of kindness regardless if the person on the receiving end may not exhibit the same behavior I would have.
During this giving season, remember why we give. When you extend gifts and acts of kindness to others it’s because you yourself are a kind person. Let go of the expectations of the recipient’s reaction (or in some cases, lack there of). It will save you potential disappointment down the line and make you see the good in your efforts. Lastly, parents out there, keep reminding your children to say thank you, to WRITE thank you notes, to acknowledge acts of kindness and gifts. It just makes them better people in the long run. You don’t have to be a parent to remember the manners you were raised with. A thank you goes a long way!