We’ve all heard the old adage “It is better to give than to receive.” This quote actually has roots in scripture – but the Biblical phrase uses “more blessed” instead of “better.” Whether you have an appreciation for scripture or not, I’m sure you could still agree with the philosophy presented. We’ve all known how amazingly good it feels to find the PERFECT gift for someone. We can’t wait to see the look on their face when they open it. We feel better – if not blessed – when we can brighten someone’s day with a gift.
Giving gifts certainly is fun, but I would go a step further and say that it is easier to be on that end of the transaction. There is a great episode of the Big Bang Theory where Sheldon, a character who borders on neurotic, becomes frantic when he learns that his neighbor, Penny, has a gift for him. He spends the episode in agony of how to reciprocate her gift in a way that will prove “even” with whatever gift she gives him. The problem, of course, is that the gift from Penny is a surprise, so Sheldon does not know how big or small his gift to Penny should be in exchange. He buys several different gifts for her so that once he opens the gift she gives him; he will have on hand an appropriate gift to present to her.
We aren’t all as obsessive as Sheldon, but we do know what it feels like to receive a gift, unprepared to reciprocate. And there are times still, when accepting a gift is hard for another reason. Perhaps someone is offering a gift that is more than you think they can afford. Perhaps you know that they need it more than you do.
In these circumstances, we must remember that a gift like this is more for the giver than the receiver. The feeling of fullness that you have when you give selflessly – your gift giver feels that too. To turn down a gift, even one that you know is too much, would be to rob your giver of their own fullness. So you must be gracious. Take the gift that you know you may never be able to repay.
This concept can apply beyond the physical gifts, too. I know that most people, like me, have struggled with self-esteem. Women especially are bombarded with images that make them feel less than. So when women are given compliments – “I love your hair” or “What a beautiful scarf” or even “You did a great job on that project,” we are masters at deflecting the verbal gift. We respond with, “Ugh I HATE my curls” or “This old thing?” or “Well, I had a lot of help.” We need to learn to accept these verbal gifts with confidence – knowing that it is okay to be reminded of our strength, beauty, and wisdom.
In the end of the Big Bang Theory, Sheldon is dismayed that the gift that Penny gave him is one of sentimental value – it cannot be quantified or reciprocated with any size lotion basket. He was forced to accept the gift and let go of his need to always repay.
So even though it is better to give, and often easier to give, we will all find ourselves on the receiving end, too. If we acknowledge the importance of that role and accept gifts, both tangible and not, with gratefulness and full understanding of our inability to reciprocate, we will begin to more fully appreciate the gifts that we are given every day. After all, we did nothing to make the sun come up today; the day itself is a gift – one that no one can repay.