The Art of Giving
The frenzy of activity that marks the month of December is unmatched. End of year parties and activities, gift buying, and holiday shopping can rapidly merge into an experience which is taxing and depleting emotionally, physically and financially.
In our desire to give materially, we are unaware of the toll that we unconsciously exact on our spirits and our bodies. The truth is that wholesome giving cannot be primarily defined as a material activity although it may manifiest in a physical material form such as money or gifts. In its highest context, giving is a spiritual activity which can manifest in any number of forms for the intended recepient.
To explore this concept further, let's take a more intimate look at different levels of giving. The most basic form of giving is simply giving something material. Although this is valuable, if thought and intention particularly loving intention is not added to the material, such giving can be incidental and lack warmth or in some situations be detrimental or dsyfunctional.
Some examples of purely materialistic giving include parents who don't want to invest time in relationship with their children and opt to give them things instead. Another example is giving aid to corrupt and broken systems, organizations or governments without oversight or concern that the intended recipients are afforded the opportunities promised. In both of these situations, the outcome is depleting.
Incidentally, the results of this type of materialistic giving may deplete at a number of different levels. The least obvious but most devastating being the depletion of the soul and spirit. Recipients of this type of giving are not uplifted by the spirit of intentional generosity, but rather are objectified. The results of giving at this level are limited in the power to effect lasting change. For a child this lack of intention and attention can be profoundly harmful emotionally and psychologically, for giving of this nature slams a huge wrecking ball into the basis of self-esteem, one of the major pillars of what it means to accepted as fully human and appreciated for who you are. Donors of this type of gift are usually unaware of this type of impact or may simply be lazy or so deflated by guilt t and exhaustion themselves that they are incapable of giving in any other way. For both the donor and the recipient, wholeness is needed.
A higher level of giving is demonstrated by being intentional and paradoxially grateful. Gratitude is a characteristic which we often associate soley with the recipient of a gift and not with the donor. But, I would suggest that intentional giving starts not simply with being thankful, but being humbly grateful. Focusing on the privilege of being able to give changes the platform. To give is to be truly blessed. To truly give to anothers need or bliss requires that I focus my attention and intention on being grateful for the opportunity to bless another, to essentially empower another. It also requires a humble gratitude for the gift of their presence in my life. Thereby changing the equation for the "potential giver" from an elevated position to a recipient of grace.
Giving of this quality transforms the nature of what is given. All material forms have a predecessor in the unseen realm. The Celebration of the Birth of Jesus at this time of year was a gift that was prophesised centuries before he arrived as a minute embryonic cell in Mary's womb and eventually manifested as a baby born to rule, but lying in the extremely modest environment of the manger. The intention of this gift was clearly the love of God for humankind. The transformation afforded through the gift of Jesus Christ literally redeems life and provides reconnection to God through acceptance of His gift of life. Now that is radical, the Giver of life being so full of humility and love that He would humble himself to take on a physical body with all its weakness to ensure that through His death, we could live. This is the spiritual nature and meaning of Christmas.
How can understanding this transform our giving? Firstly, the focus is not on what you give. The "what" objectifies giving. Some of life's most profound gifts come through the giving of in service to another, sympathy, friendship, love, and a listening ear. I am reminded of the fact that at this time American soldiers throughout the world, but particularly in the Middle East are giving the most precious gift of all, their lives in service to our country. This is truly a gift for which all Americans should be deeply grateful and support with their prayers for safety and protection for these brave individuals.
Giving of ones self is the highest form of giving particularly when it is done to enable the highest good of another. The grace of this type of giving transforms a simple cup of cold water to the least amongst us to a gift which resounds in the heavens and impacts life far beyond the limited dimension of what we can readily see, measure or understand. It is this type of giving which Mother Teresa employed through her work in the slums of Calcutta, India where the most forgotten, destitute and dying in society were blessed with dignity and comfort.
This Christmas, I encourage you to transform your giving by exploring the art of intentional loving awareness and gratitude as you buy and give presents. But in addition, be mindful of the wealth of opportunities for giving which explode the boundaries of the material and provide truly rich opportunities to litterally create goodwill and peace here on earth.
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