Gift-Giving is for the Giver
Gift-giving is based on motive. It stems from having a sincere desire to help someone. Giving a gift for any other reason is suspect. Once someone decides to give a gift, should he expect the receiver to reciprocate?
Marcel Mauss, the French sociologist, argued that a gift is never “free,” that it creates a bond between the giver and the receiver because a part of the giver in intertwined with the gift. It becomes part of the giver, and this unity creates a bond between him and the receiver which causes the receiver to want to reciprocate. I am not sure what the reason, but humans do have a sense of obligation to return a gift for a gift.
We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.
Churchill seems to be advocating that there should be no strings attached to giving–that giving amplifies the life of the giver and that should be enough. Nothing should be expected in return, nor should the receiver feel any obligation to reciprocate. Many sociologists maintain that gift-giving is based on social norms which may dictate that giving and receiving constitute a relationship between parties, and if one wants to continue the relationship, giving, receiving and reciprocating are expected.
Gift-Giving: Is It for the Receiver?
At first glance one can conclude that it is the receiver who benefits from gift-giving. He has a gift and has the option to reciprocate or not. It is really not that simple.
If the receiver chooses to accept the gift and not reciprocate, how does this affect his relationship with the giver? He has an option to send a “Thank You Note,” and let that be sufficient, say nothing or say “I received your gift, but I am sorry that I cannot give you anything.” Which would you choose? If the relationship is unimportant, either would suffice. However, if it is, a decision that maintains positive feedback will have to be made. This takes deep contemplation and forecasting of future feelings based on the kind of decision made.
A moral evaluation could be “It is better to give than to receive.” That depends on what one is giving. I would surmise that the writer of this statement had reference to giving and expressing divine qualities. It that sense, it is better to give, because expressing good qualities helps the giver overcome selfishness, self-love and perhaps greed. On the other hand, if the giver is giving to make someone like him better, receive a tax deduction or influence the receiver in a way that works for the giver, nothing comes from giving. Also, giving and receiving to comply with social norms only, does little to help the giver.
The receiver may be helped because the gift is exactly what he needed to overcome a hardship. Materially, he is helped, but morally he may not be so. Why? If the receiver has the attitude that someone owes him something and he owes nothing, giving to him could be a hindrance because it simply confirms negative expectations. However, if the receiver sees and understands the sincerity and thoughtfulness of the giver, humility and gratitude may move him to respond in kind in similar situations.
Gift-giving will be thought, spoken about and acted upon in the coming months. Reflect on what it means to you and those whom you give or receive gifts. Be motivated by your highest level of thought and you will be a respected giver and a humble receiver.