Advice Column, Health, Parenting

To Give and To Receive

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I think it is time to balance out the season of giving. There is a strange misconception out there that it is better to give than to receive. Some may even go so far as to say that “blessed are those who give”. To complete the sentence then, “cursed are those who receive”!

In fact, it takes both sides to complete the equation. In order to give there must be someone to receive. Both are essential sides of the same coin.

I find that most people are quite comfortable with giving. It is a nice feeling after all to hand someone a shiny package and see the joy on their face as they open it to discover that you know exactly what they like. Children, too, from a very early age, enjoy giving – they give us stones they picked up on the playground, they give us a lick of their melting ice cream, they give us a favourite teddy to sleep with for the night when we’re feeling sad, they give us beautiful artworks on the walls of our houses!

What we tend to do as well meaning parents is to emphasise this joy of giving and imply that this is better than to be on the receiving end.

Now children naturally receive well – anyone who has seen their child with a pile of presents on Christmas morning knows that they are only too happy to keep on taking. By adulthood, however, we cower away from such indulgence in receiving. We see it as something for children, or greedy people, or those with no constraint.

Our children are watching us as we argue to split the bill instead of graciously accepting our meal as a gift from a friend, as we tell people not to bother buying us birthday gifts but to rather donate something to charity, as we celebrate festivities by enjoying giving our children gifts but not including ourselves on the receiving end.

Now I’m not insinuating that we need to rush out and spend a fortune on amassing useless doodads that have been flown in from China. What I’m suggesting is that we learn to enjoy both sides by making both giving and receiving meaningful for everyone. There are many ways to enjoy this without becoming mass consumers.

What I would like to see are parents raising their children to continue to enjoy receiving. To learn to be grateful both for what they give and what they receive by watching their parents do the same. Our children can’t possibly become successful in life is they become uncomfortable with receiving. All business transactions require both, all relationships require both, having a healthy spiritual, mental and emotional life requires both.

Allow yourself to be part of the festivities this year and know that as you enjoy receiving, your children are learning to honour themselves and their desires and to be open to what life has to offer them. Blessed are those who give and those who receive.

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