It is my brother’s birthday this week, and since I was not going to be able to see him on his actual birthday, I went to see him over the weekend. When you have a life altering experience, which I have had a few over the past four years with developing Sarcoidosis and heart failure, you tend to see things differently, and appreciate people in your life a little more.
This year I decided that I was going to get him a really nice gift, a way of saying thank you for being a really good brother. I got him what I knew he would like, and it was a limited edition, with only seventy five of them made. It was fairly expensive, but I wanted to get it for him.
Firstly, when I handed him the gift, he said the automatic “You shouldn’t have”. Then he told me he loved it, followed by “Why did you go and get me something so expensive. Now I have to get you something expensive for Christmas”. He said it a s joke, but I could not help but think that in some sense, he meant it. He felt obligated to return the gratitude.
This is not the first time I encountered this. My wife and I are friends with another couple, and the husband is very weary of accepting gifts. If we give them something, he immediately says that we shouldn’t have and then says “now I have to get you something in return”. So we stopped giving them things. When I see something that I think someone would like, if I can, I buy it as a gift, no strings attached. But many people can’t accept something without thinking there is a string attached.
I think that I have figured out why this is. The people who can’t accept a gift without believing that there is a string attached, are people who give “gifts” with a string attached. They believe that if they give you something, no matter what it is, they expect something of equal or greater value in return. Then that’s not a gift, is it? It’s a bribe.
When I give a gift, I give it openly, from the heart, with no expectations or requirements. If you turn around and give that gift away, that is your choice. When you give a gift, you release it completely when it is handed to the other person. If they decide to smash it to the ground and then drive their car over it, that’s there choice (you just know now that they are crazy and that the next time you should get them something that they can easily break)