31 July 2005
The Paradox of Giving
How can it be true that ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive’ when every gift depends on the appreciation of a recipient for its power?
Certainly, if we take what is not freely offered, we create upset and imbalance.
But if we passively permit others to rob us of something that is meaningful to ourselves, we may have colluded in their corruption. In this sense, have we not taken something from them?
And if we seek to maximize our gifts to the world, are we in danger of getting caught up in an illusion of self-importance? How much better if we can facilitate others in the process of sharing their gifts!
The charm of the child lies in the way that he appreciates our nurturance, and expresses a genuine delight in our gift, validating our goodness and ability to contribute. And for some adults, if we culture the child in ourselves, we regain the ability to permit others to make us happy.
What we know is that the shared joy in giving and receiving is our most meaningful communal activity. What we don’t know is, in such activity, which of us is the giver and which is the receiver?
- Josh Mitteldorf