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Sunday, December 30, 2007

Gift of Need

Once I discovered the back and forth of reciprocal giving was a foundation assumption of mine, I had to ask myself how did this play out in my sense of relationship?

First I realized that I had categories of who got which type of giving. These are my categories, and I know that others think of this differently than I do, but it really helped me to watch myself and describe these for myself. So I would encourage self observation and questions about this...

For instance, with aquaintances, I was more likely to give without expectation of getting back anything - only determining for myself what I could give easily and without high cost to me.
With business, fairness and having a standard of how people should treat each other was my rule of thumb.

To friends or people who were about to become friends, I would give to them gifts that matched their level of sacrifice, and then watch carefully the timing and content of how they gave back to me and emulate what they did. I did this because being too generous seemed to drive people away. With family and 'adopted family' members, I gave without keeping track of what I was giving to them, expecting them to be around to give back to me when I needed it and visa versa - in a very long time frame of decades rather than years. I discovered that me having this ability to give without keeping track was essential for bonding, and also being open to being given to was important for me also. But I learned that I had to choose these people carefully and demonstrate my intentions to them, while I showed them what my "doing for" them meant for me. I learned that their history about giving vrs. trading could be in conflict with mine and cause some chaos and hurt. This took some skill.

Maybe you have unique attitudes about giving that could be discussed after some observation that you seem to be able to do. I know that discovering and explaining some of my own ideas here I hold about giving led me to 'assign' me some new and wonderful adopted family members. Gaining new 'family members' completely satisfied my drive to belong that was previously expressed in look for an intimate partner that seemed to dominate my life up until that time.

Then I thought about the different sorts of gift-giving and the different criterias giving seems to answer.

There are gifts that are given while giving to yourself - a sharing sort of giving. On this continuum, some people don't think of sharing because who would value what they have? Some people take care of themselves luxuriously and generously and some in a spartan style. Some people go so far as to give other people the gift they define as valuable and can't understand why the giftee may not value it. I call this the "give what you have" gifting.

Sometimes, it's a gift to need something because there has to be a giver for there to be a givee - so the point of the gift is the sharing of it - such as the timing of the new tires so the two of you can go on a trip together. Sometimes the person who is a generous sort of "share" giver exclusively may hold the opinion that giving a gift with too much additional value is a kind of one-upmanship. In some cultures, the person who can give has a much higher status than the one who receives, so the receiver is one-down.

There are gifts that consider the value that the person who you are giving to has been the one to define. And of course, the more the giver is able to "read the mind of" the person who they are giving the gift to, the more the value is measured that you have given a "successful" gift that means something to the receiver. I call that the "mind-reading" criteria of value. If you believe that the ability to keep track of someone else's preferences shows how they feel about you...well, you may just have to accept that some people do not have the memory or intuitive skill to find out what you prefer without you telling them specifically, so they aren't so good at remembering the hints that you may be dropping. One solution for them is to have them consult with someone who is capable of mind-reading or remembering your preferences - of course, this is best done on the sly if the giftee holds the ideal that a person is supposed to be able to read minds.

Then there is the relative value of the act of giving vrs. the value of the gift. The best of these is where a giver can put a tool into the hands of a person who never considered using it before. That's along the lines of the idea of teaching someone how to fish instead of giving them a fish.

What most people are after is the well-placed gift; a wonderful combination of content, mind-reading, significance and timing. I believe that understanding enough about a person to give this sort of gift takes observation, memory, a knowledge of their values and intimate knowing of their life's challenges - as well as the ability to write screen plays... ah, the ability to pick out significance of special meaning from the flow of day to day moments as a screen writer picks out the scenes for their movie story. Kind of a tricky skill, actually.

Sometimes a gift that is much trouble to the giver is not appreciated adequately, because the giftee has no idea what is involved in the giving of it. When someone offers me a practical gift, this is why I often accompany them so I can see how much trouble the gift is to give to me. Of course, the sort of gift that is only a little trouble to the giver and holds great value to the giftee is the ideal. So the value would be measured by how much sacrifice the giver experienced to be able to offer to gift - because recognition is also nice to get back from the giftee.

Respect, recognition, gratitude & appreciation are tricky, elusive things because timing is important. It's easy for a person to miss what the other is offering. So each person's unique ways of symbolizing these intangibles are important to know about in relationships. Another thing to keep in mind... see how complex this issue can get? Imagine how reciprocal assumption can be so tricky this can be to figure out for those who just don't have some of the necessary skills!?

But sometimes, a giver wants to give what would be of some sort of significant sacrifice, because they believe that the gift would also hold great value that the givee can not know until they have it.

I think that this resolve that you've been practicing to leave out the negativity is one of these gifts. Of course, it's something that you're giving to yourself as well as the person, but, what a wonderful, transformational practice to offer!

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