The Spirit of Giving and Forgiving

This is part two in my series on Giving and Forgiving…

Giving and receiving of you.

Christmas gifts.

Image via Wikipedia

In Part 1 of this series on Giving and Forgiving, I began with how my laughing epiphany helped me make the connection between giving and accepting freely. Please stop by to read the background for this post.

To begin this post, I am making the distinction here between manners and requirements. I don’t believe in insisting that my kids say, “I’m sorry” or “Thank you.” I talk with them during a neutral time about empathy and kindness. I explain to them about societal expectations and choices.

Most importantly, I model caring for another person and giving kind words whenever needed. I don’t want to encourage the idea of stuffing down feelings in order to please someone else, rather I want them to have the ability to fix a situation, or not, as they see fit.

Insisting on gifts, reciprocity or gratitude is the same thing to me as forcing a child to apologize. I would rather receive an honest silence than a disingenuous thank you. It is similar to when someone asks, “How are you?” For many, this translates to, “Here’s my polite platitude so that I can tell you about me.” When I ask “How are you?” I want to know if your day was stressful or joyful. I want to listen and care (and I don’t really mind if you don’t ask me in return.)

I understand that not everyone agrees with this view of manners. For many, being polite should be performed without regard to intrinsic motivation. I honor that, as well. But, I would like there to be a clear distinction between those times as I raise my children.

I want to empower them to move from the heart and once they are able to figure out what is required in a situation, to give the social niceties from a place of giving freely because they give from their heart. This is intrinsic motivation and is how to give true gifts.

This freedom in giving and receiving allows me to enjoy gifts. I can give with no expectation of reaction from the receiver. If they are pleased, I can enjoy their pleasure. If they don’t react in a way that I expect, I’m not disappointed. I took pleasure in choosing and giving to them.

The same for receiving. Once I get over my own issues with being worthwhile to receive a gift (that’s a whole other issue, fairly common to women and victims of abuse.) I appreciate the offer from the other person. Whether the gift hits the mark for my personal enjoyment or not, I feel a sense of contentment in the connection that is formed within the exchange of giving.


Image via Wikipedia

I want to live my life freely and that means giving freely of everything.  In order to do that, I have to do a lot of inner work to fill my bucket.


When I look at my kids, I notice that their behavior is more even when they are feeling nurtured and safe. They are more able to handle the frustration with a challenging puzzle or when encountering a difficult concept when they have assurance of their needs being met.

And conversely, they are more apt to lose control of their emotions when they are tired, hungry, or emotionally disconnected. The same goes for adults. Only we’re better at labeling our tantrums as something more benign because we’re grown up. If we have years of not having our needs met, we may be out of touch with our needs and just like that 3 year old screaming on the floor, we’ll feel terrified about the lack of control.

It’s time to step back and breathe, then try to connect with the unmet needs either at that time or later. For me, I need lots of time to write, read, be outside and practice Yoga and meditation. I also need lots of physical affection. I know that these things fill my emotional bucket, so I cultivate them. I try to notice when I’m running low and seek them out.

It’s not selfish to put your own oxygen mask on first. It benefits everyone’s survival.

When my bucket is empty, I do a poor job giving freely and it’s often a major effort to rise above it. But, when I’m feeling content, I am able to connect with giving more easily. Identifying and meeting needs for yourself and those around you is something I’ll cover in a later post. For now, I highly recommend you read Vibrant Wandering’s: Giving From the Heart.

Giving love, extending friendship, caring for someone, giving of your time, and so on are gifts in exactly the same way as purchasing or making an object. I would even argue that the bought or made object is a representation of those feelings. A tangible gift is an outward representation of feelings the giver, just as saying “I love you” or “I’m sorry” is supposed to be.

Receiving and giving love, friendship, forgiveness, empathy, care, time, and so on are also gifts that you give to yourself and the giver.

Santa Claus with a little girl

Image via Wikipedia

Even giving attention is a gift. They are the type of gifts that are done without thought of reimbursement because they emerge from the person you are. When done in this way, they have no cost. In fact, they pay both people back richly.


The things you give the most attention to are the things that will flourish.



It is the spirit of exchange that moves someone to give freely. It is interesting to think about the gift of forgiveness for ourselves and others. This can be an especially challenging thing during the holidays.I’ll explore forgiveness, guilt, as well as giving our truth (including the idea of Santa Claus in future posts in this series)

Questions from Part 1: Have you ever been charged for receiving a gift? Do you have expectations when you give to someone else?

Questions from Part 2: Do you feel that giving and receiving freely is important or is a gift a gift? What do you think about the concept that giving objects are a representation of the feelings inside?

Remember, anonymous comments are always welcome. I’d love to hear from you.

NaBloPoMo 2011

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8 thoughts on “The Spirit of Giving and Forgiving

  1. Pingback: The Mindful Holiday Giving Guide | TouchstoneZ

  2. I attended a session on Gary Chapman’s “Five Love Languages” at a homeschool conference once. If you accept the basic premise, then someone whose primary love language is “gifts” will experience love through the giving and receiving of gifts. In that way, I think a material gift can be an expression of the feelings inside. I think that breaks down if you give something simply out of obligation rather than out of love.

    Incidentally, I, too, don’t demand that my children apologize. An insincere apology, in my mind, is worse than none at all. Instead, I merely model the behavior and apologize when it’s necessary (even for them, if it seems appropriate). They seem to pick it up quite well. I’m a little more of a stickler for the “please” and “thank you” ritual. I do model that for them, which takes care of most of it, but I do ask for a “please” when they make a request of me, mostly because I feel better when they talk to me gently and kindly. I don’t force a thank you, but I might remind them or thank someone for them if they’ve not done it on their own. We do have a habit of writing thank-you notes for gifts and visits and special favors. All of our family lives far away, and I see the thank-you notes as a part of the nurturing of connections that we can’t do in person. If my kids don’t really like the gift, I help them see that, even if it missed the mark, it was intended as a sign of love, and encourage them to write the thank-you for the act of giving rather than the gift itself.

    I’m appreciating this series, and I’m looking forward to seeing what else you have for us as the season progresses!

    • Thank you for those insights, CJ. That’s one of those books I think I read, but perhaps I may have just picked up the gist without the nuances second hand through articles and posts. I actually enjoy writing thank you notes, but I rebel against it when I feel it’s expected and I don’t enjoy the guilt I give myself when I don’t do it in a timely manner. I used to do it all the time, but stopped after I lost Sar because of my disconnection. I haven’t gotten back to it as routine. With the holidays coming, I have a chance to start again!

      Thank you. It started out as 1 post and I couldn’t write it. No wonder. It keeps growing and growing. I’m subtitling it, “The Series that Ate Manhattan.”

      • Yes, I’m not sure if I 100% buy the 5 love languages, but it helps me understand/accept some things (like why my mom insists on giving us material gifts even when we ask her to please just give a donation in our name to one of a dozen different causes. My Heifer International gift to her a few years ago didn’t go over too well, either…).

        Funny, my posts about simplicity have been similarly (and ironically, in this case) difficult to wrangle.

      • Z – I think the book can be distilled pretty easily without reading the whole thing. Kind of like The Happiest Baby on the Block could have been a short article instead of a whole book! I read The Five Love Languages in my younger 20s and had forgotten most of it but bringing back the idea has helped my marriage tremendously; it really helped us understand each other more. And it helped me understand where my mom was coming from as well (she receives and gives love through gifts).

      • Thank you, Michele. That’s good to know. I may grab it from the library and give it a skim. Or I may just stick to articles about it. But, I think you and CJ have convinced me to revisit the concepts and see if they’re helpful.

  3. I have lots to say about this post, but the tired, naked 3 y.o. jumping on the bed who’s screaming just so he can wake up his brother needs attention!

    I completely agree with not making children say “Thank you” and “I’m sorry”. My husband is the perfect example of why doing this is not OK: He thinks if he does something to hurt someone, saying “I’m sorry” will erase it. He will do the same thing a little later, apologize, then start all over again. It means absolutely nothing to him. He was raised to apologize. Then everyone was happy. Those are NOT magical words! I tend to think of “I’m sorry” as meaning: “I realize I messed up and will try my hardest to never do it again.” I want my kids to mean it when they say it (and “thank you”, too!)

I love comments and try to reply to each one. I look forward to connecting with you. Namaste

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