Monday, April 19, 2010

We Suck at Receiving Gifts

When you sell something to me we exchange items of value. I give you money and you give me something, or some service and the deal is done. We each go away with what we started with only in a different form. You got money lost the thing, I got the thing and lost the money. Even Steven. This is good, and it works and it is what most economies are based on.

But what if I gave you more money than you asked for? What if you gave me more "stuff" than I paid for? There is an imbalance created, a vacuum, and nature abhors a vacuum. The imbalance must be resolved.

In Native American tradition in the Pacific Northwest giving was a sign of power. A powerful chief would give away everything he owned as a sign of his wealth and power. This was called "potlatch". Think of the power and confidence behind that kind of a gift, that kind of an imbalance!

We sometimes resolve the gift imbalance by acknowledging the givers creativity and insight. Artists do this when they put a painting in a museum or a song out on the internet. "Here's a free gift" they say. We don't pay for it but we acknowledge it and then, if it is good or powerful, we pass it on and we become givers by sharing with others.

Sometimes we repair the imbalance of a gift by becoming closer to the giver. What was a simple transaction in business now becomes a friend to a friend. We develop a sense of preferred customers, vendors or clients because of the gift.

BUT sometimes we develop a sense of resentment. "Why are you rich and powerful and I am not?" so a cycle of dependency is created "You NEED to give to me because you are rich and powerful!" This gifting hurts both parties.

The key to giving gifts is in the sense of FORWARD motivation. If my gift to you inspires you to do something so you can give to another and another and so on; then the gift has a forward momentum. If my gift to you causes you to resent me and begin to EXPECT that gift or an BIGGER one next time and the next and so on; then my gift has a negative momentum that is destructive to both of us.

People love to give gifts. Not just because of the sense of power like the Native American Chief but simply because that is how we were built by God. But as receivers of gifts we generally suck. We don't know how to receive gifts. We become resentful and dependent.

So here is your quick primer on receiving a gift: 1] Thank the giver profusely and ask if there is anything that you can give them in return. 2] Understand the gift is from the heart and a love for you, or just people in general and don't resent it. 3] When the opportunity presents itself (and it WILL) give back, not necessarily to the one who gave to you (in fact, it would be better if not because the joy then spreads). 4] Lather, rinse and REPEAT!

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