When did ‘give’ become such a dirty word? So apologetic? So guilt ridden? When I think of the word ‘give’, I run through a course of emotions. First is guilt, then indignation, followed by sadness, and yet again, guilt. I’m going to take a stab in the dark and say I’m probably not the only one that has some negative connotations around giving.
So, let’s spend some time talking about it. I’d like to know if I’m right about others feeling the same, or if you have a more positive view of giving. It’s a big topic and I’d like to give(!) it justice. For the next few Thursday’s I’ll be posting thoughts on the topic and you’ll have an opportunity to respond. Here’s what you can expect:
- This week: dictionary definition of ‘give’ compared to our actual understanding
- Next week: ‘why’ we think it
- The following week: busting the giving myths
- In our last week: what we have learnt and how we are putting it into practice.
Dictionary.com presents 57 entries on the word ‘give’. It covers everything from giving a birthday present, to giving someone a chance, to giving punishment. That’s a lot of pressure on one little word. For the sake of this discussion, I’m referring to the first item on the list, “to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation”.
I’m going to break that definition down share my hang-ups of the word, warts and all.
“To present”: What are we presenting, exactly? Material gifts, money, time, knowledge, skills, resources, energy, emotions, support… My primary thoughts are on 1) Money, 2) Gifts, and 3) Time. These are the things I am most limited in and hold most dear.
“Voluntarily”: First of all, I have to say that I enjoy giving presents. I enjoy giving kind words. I enjoy spending time with people I care about. However, if my bank account or personal-time tank is running low, I source my giving from obligation. I like to be generous with my family, friends and colleagues but when it comes to those empty tanks, I resort to my archive of what constitutes generosity in the given situation.
The word ‘give’ triggers a childhood memory of an adult telling me, “gifts should cost something of the giver”. The implication was that you should feel yourself parting with that thing you gave, like it was a part of you. For so long I remember thinking I had to be empty in some way to have really given. Empty pocket. Empty stomach. Empty brain. Empty tissue box.
“Without expecting compensation”: I’m not often a volunteer when it comes to giving. I am a paid worker. I expect to get what is owed to me when I give, whether it’s a thank you, renewed energy, a sense of closeness or my own needs met. I expect to be treated the way I treat others. That’s why, when I ‘give way’ on the road, I expect a grateful wave. I think the root of this comes back to that sense of obligation I carry with me.
Well? What does the word ‘give’ trigger for you? Do you feel good when you hear the word or do you feel pressured? What’s your ‘give’ history? If you’re feeling anxious about sharing, check out the community page and remember that this is a safe space. Next week we’ll explore this a little more and identify some ‘give’ myths.
Read other "Give Series" posts: