Around this time of year, it’s a common thing to hear someone say, “It’s better to give than to receive.” It’s a mentality meant to encourage generosity as opposed to selfishness, and it suggests that we should be very modest when receiving gifts, and be very joyful in giving them.
I’d like to think it should actually be the other way around.
I think we should take more pleasure in receiving than in giving. I’m not saying it should be “me, me, me”, thinking only of what’s in it for you, but I don’t think there should be so much more emphasis on the act of giving. We should be modest when we give, and joyful when we receive.
The thing is, I don’t give gifts to people because I actually enjoy buying things and giving them away. I give gifts to people because I love the smiles on their faces, or the happiness they’re going to get from it down the road, or the knowledge that, by giving them a gift I know they’ll like, I’m expressing my love and care for them.
I give gifts because I’m hoping that the person I’m giving to is going to love receiving it.
So that being said, shouldn’t we all take more pleasure in receiving the gift than giving it? Shouldn’t we be filled with eager anticipation, as we wonder what our friends and family have given us? Shouldn’t we show them just how much we love receiving gifts, because we know it will make them happy?
I’m no parent, but I’m willing to bet that parents don’t enjoy going to stores to buy presents for their children. I’m willing to bet that what they actually enjoy is having their kids run down the stairs on Christmas morning, ripping apart the paper with wild abandon, their faces lighting up with joy as they admire their new toys. I don’t think a parent would want to scold their child, telling them they should be more excited about giving to other people, because it makes that parent so happy to see their child’s joy.
I agree that it’s important to give to others, especially those in need. It’s important to think of people other than ourselves. It’s important to have limits and not constantly want more, more, more. But the first step to giving is receiving.
I take joy in giving the perfect gift because I know first-hand how truly warming it is to receive the care and love that someone else has given you. I know what it’s like to be a kid, dying to open my gifts and see what I’ve been given. And I can see it, that look of satisfaction and pleasure, on the giver’s face when I tell them how much I love my gift.
So this year, be a kid again. Get excited about the gifts you’re going to receive and don’t worry about being selfish. Because the gift of gratitude and appreciation is an important one–it’s the very reason we give in the first place.
What do you hope to receive?
May you embrace the joy of gifts and never forget the importance of gratitude.