Giving is the true meaning of Christmas, or so we are told.
This is true. It’s just not the entire story.
Christmas has become such a commercialized holiday — so much about lists, and long lines, and sales, and boxes under the tree — that the natural cultural counter has been to say that the spirit of Christmas is not really about the stuff we get, but rather about the stuff we give.
And, again, that’s true. It’s just not the entire story.
Maybe the reason we focus so much on giving is because it is self-serving.
If everything is done in the spirit of giving, then we don’t really need to feel so bad about the wanting and the getting, do we? Because the wanting and the getting are looked down upon. At least we think they are. It feels selfish, it seems selfish, to extract joy from the getting rather than the giving.
So we’ve over-compensated as a society — to the point where we’re supposed to believe that giving is the meaning of Christmas (religious meanings aside). And that if we focus on the receiving, we’re doing something wrong.
Well, I’m writing this today because in this tug of war between the importance of giving and receiving at Christmastime, I see similarities between the tug of war between pride and humility in all of us all of the time.
Too much pride? Not good. We live a life focused solely on ourselves.
Too much humility? Not good either. We live a life of perpetual deference, meekness, and sideline sitting.
We need both.
The same is true with giving and receiving at Christmastime.
If I am supposed to extract all of this joy from giving … well, I can only really do that if someone is extracting joy from receiving. Because my joy in giving comes from the anticipated and realized joy someone will or does experience from the gift I give them — and the more thoughtful the gift, the greater the anticipated and realized joy.
But someone has to receive it, and someone has to be excited to receive it, and someone has to not feel bad about unabashedly displaying just how excited he or she is about this gift I have given.
Otherwise I give … and that’s it.
I get the satisfaction of feeling like I did what I was supposed to do … and that’s it.
You may say: “But it’s the act of giving that should bring the joy.” And yes, that is true. The act of giving does bring joy. It’s just not the whole story.
I can experience joy because I give someone something … but that joy grows exponentially when I know the recipient will love and appreciate their gift, and then when I actually see them loving and appreciating their gift.
It makes giving more joyful. It makes giving more meaningful. It makes giving more wonderful.
Which then leads to more giving. Which leads to better giving.
Which leads — or should lead — to more joyful receiving, more meaningful receiving, more wonderful receiving.
Which should then lead to more and better giving.
Do you see the word circle that was just drawn there?
All I am saying is this:
Yes, the holiday spirit is about giving. But just remember that it’s also about receiving. You don’t need to be Nintendo 64 kid with every gift you get, but genuine and visible enthusiasm and appreciation are most certainly warranted.
Let me emphasize a word there: visible.
You may love a gift. You may appreciate a gift. But if you don’t say it, if you don’t show it, then only you ever know. Keeping your appreciation and excitement inside doesn’t lead to better, more meaningful, more wonderful giving. Keeping that inside doesn’t provide joy to the giver. And that is an especially cruel trick to play at Christmastime, when we are supposed to extract our joy from the giving. 😉
So, this Christmas, don’t feel bad about wanting. Don’t feel bad about receiving. Instead, want and receive with just as much enthusiasm as you give. Because one without the other creates an unsustainable imbalance.
Receive and give. Give and receive.
Together, they are the holiday spirit.
Together, they are the true meaning of Christmas.
Flickr Creative Commons Image via Anders Adermark