Giving and Receiving are the Same

The mad rush is upon us yet again and the pressure to spend, spend, spend on gifts for all and sundry is unrelenting. So many decisions to be made, like who do we need to buy for, and what would be an acceptable gift? How much should we spend on this person or that? Do we buy for the boyfriend or girlfriend as well, or not?

Has the holiday season become a nightmare for you in this regard? Has all the pleasure of gift giving gone out of it? Has it become more a matter of obligation than of simply wanting to shower someone with a gift they would really want, or better still, need?

In view of how complicated this gift-giving process has become, it’s worth considering what really counts as a gift in the true sense of the word. For a gift to be a gift, is has to satisfy three criteria.

  1. It has to be something you really want to give simply out of the desire to give it, not out of a sense of obligation.
  1. You need to be sure that it is something the person really would want and be happy to receive.
  1. There can be no strings attached. This means you should have no expectation of a reciprocal gift or favor. It also means that you shall have no attachment, expectation or desire concerning what the person does with the gift.

JoAnn and I go through the agony every year trying to decide what we should buy each other, never mind my three kids and 10 grandchildren and all their boyfriends and girlfriends, JoAnn’s two sisters, nieces, and nephews.

Actually for many years now I have solved the problem with my family by giving them money. That satisfies all three criteria because I know they can use it, it gives me pleasure to give it knowing they will enjoy spending it, and I don’t care what they do with it. JoAnn has her own way of doing things with her family.

But, it is about this time each year that I ask JoAnn, “What would you like for Christmas?” She responds, “I don’t know. What do you want?

I respond, “Nothing actually. I can’t think of anything I want that I don’t already have.”

Criteria #2, then, is the sticking point for both of us. We both want to give, but neither of us wants anything. Criteria #3 is moot at this point.

This dilemma forces us to give further consideration to criteria number one. Some ingenuity and creativity are called for. Thinking outside of the box is needed.

She doesn’t need any more gadgets or, as far as I know, another item of clothing, but what man would dare to buy clothes for his wife, anyway?

Over the years, I have given her expensive spa treatments and the like, but I’m running out of ideas. If you ladies have any suggestions for me, I would be willing to receive them.

Seriously, though, let me come to criteria number three because this is the one that can cause a lot of feelings to be hurt and relationships to be damaged.

‘No strings attached’ means exactly that. For example, for the gift to be genuine, it should not be a problem for you if the person receiving the gift, gives it on to someone else who might actually want it, donates it the local charity shop, sells it on eBay or in some other way disposes of it. What the person does with it is none of your business!

Now, of course, you genuinely thought the person really wanted it, thereby satisfying criteria number two, but you may have misjudged it. You may be disappointed with yourself, of course, but look at it this way. You will actually have given this person a double gift.

First, they had the pleasure of knowing you wanted to give the gift and that in itself was the gift, not the object handed over. Second you gave the person the opportunity to feel the pleasure of giving the object to someone else. Giving and receiving are the same.

But here’s the kicker. This will only occur if you genuinely have no expectation whatsoever as to what the person does with what you have given them. You don’t have to tell them you feel that way. Your energy behind the giving will be enough. They will feel it.

On the other hand, if you hold an expectation, conscious or unconscious, that they should keep it, irrespective of whether they want it or not, they will feel obligated to hold onto it. It’s an energy thing.

So, let this be your spiritual practice over the holidays. Do what you can to cover criteria 1 and 2, during the search and buy process, but on the day of giving be conscious of any strings you may have subconsciously attached. Forgive yourself for doing that and let them go.

Actually, I have a gift I would love to give you right now (Criteria#1). On my Home Page, I offer a 7-minute Radical Forgiveness experience for free.

I guess you might have a little issue with someone you might like to clear within that seven minute period (Criteria #2).

I have no attachment to you actually forgiving the person should you prefer to hold onto the pain (Criteria #3), but it is there if you would like to use it. You might also wish to pass it on to someone else who might need it.

My website is Look for the box with the heading, “Forgive Now.” or click this link.

Happy holidays,


4 thoughts on “Giving and Receiving are the Same

  1. Susan

    You make great points about gift giving after so many years with someone. We just run out of ideas. The young ones always like money and for my husband and myself we do what we call an “us” gift. We do this for our anniversary as well. We pick something for the house or something that we want to do or a place we want to go together that is about us, chosen together. It’s much more fun that way , at least for us , and there’s no trying to remember what we got each other 5 years ago or trying to figure out what to get each other after so many years. There is no ” prove you love me ” with gifts either. Us gifts are great and got the young ones, even the Middle Ages ones, money and gift cards. Simple to give , fun to receive.

  2. Nancy

    For those who really don’t need another thing a gift of an experience ranks high on my list of giving/receiving.

  3. Pat Hanson, Ph.D

    It’s time for “Virtual Christmas Giving” a concept I thought of when in dire times financially … we wrapped up five packages of pictures of thoughtful gifts we’d’ve found IF circumstances were different, the key being that one of the five must be a quality or spiritual gift you’d like the other to receive. Especially for those who are estranged or alienated from children or grandchildren, this is a useful practice.
    Thank you Colin for so many free gifts from your website … I actually featured you in a piece that will be in the online in January.

  4. Hobbit

    Here are some suggestions for gifts to give to the special person in your life who seems to have everything and want nothing. Romantic concert – A. Bocelli? The gift of your uninterrupted presence, say a walk together, a romantic boat ride spent star gazing. Prepare a home cooked meal. Read a favorite passage or poem to her/him.

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