Guiltless gift giving
How do you feel about the gift-buying season? Do you feel a conflict between a wish to shower your child with presents and your desire to be spiritual? Does that necessarily mean eschewing an abundant holiday? Can you find a balance between the two? Many of us enjoy shopping for our children; and while we are inundated with ads and sales enticing us to spend without limit, we may start to question how buying presents, heaped upon presents, fits in with The New Spirituality.
As someone who relishes giving gifts, this is a question I have thought about at length. So while I don’t have the answer for you,God just might. Conversations with God makes clear that money, creature comforts, and, yes, even material objects are meant to be enjoyed, not feared or avoided. In the Old Cultural Story, we were convinced that “virtuous” living meant going without. There was great honor bestowed for doing what you loved and expecting little pay in return; why else would the helping professions require higher levels of education yet pay lower wages than, say, the sports or entertainment industry? It is only because we have tolerated it being that way.
Conversations with God disagrees. No “virtue” is gained by denying yourself valuable pay for doing important work about which you feel passionate. Similarly, you don’t have to deny your children abundance in order to curry favor with God; so the conflict in the opening questions is an illusion. The goal, then, becomes keeping those gifts and possessions in perspective – not allowing them to consume or define you (or your children)–and finding your value, inside of you, based on Who You Really Are, rather than by your material possessions.
A simple way to keep holiday gifts in perspective, within yourself, is to be conscious of the reasons you have for the amount of shopping you do. For instance, if you are living a life of love, it may not be most beneficial to give gifts intended to show others your wealth; instead it might be more beneficial to look at gifts as an opportunity to show the recipient love, while realizing that this is not the only possible way to show that love. Similarly, giving someone gifts because you are trying to get their love and affection might not be as beneficial to your growth as giving gifts because you wish to show your love to them. If you look at gift-giving as an opportunity to compete, or to do more than others, rather than doing more for others than you have before, you might not be achieving the highest version of the grandest vision you hold about yourself. If you spend outside of your means, or what is comfortable, you may be causing yourself more stress. Whereas carefully picking meaningful gifts, which you can afford, might allow you to give with pure love rather than having fear, which accompanies spending “too much,” attached to the gift. Being aware of your gift-giving intentions will allow you to demonstrate pure love to your child.
You can also directly help your child keep the holidays in perspective. One way is to remind him that he is a complete, worthwhile being; and that, in concert with the CwG concept There is Enough, he is Enough just by his existence. Guide your child to an understanding and feeling of gratitude by encouraging her to write thoughtful thank you notes for gifts she receives. Encourage her to share with others by assisting her in making small gifts for other family members. All of these can help the child understand that the material things are just that…things which we have, not things which we are…and that being Who We Really Are is actually the best gift we can give the world.
So really, as with all of The New Spirituality, there are no wrong actions, nothing you can do which offends God or makes you a “bad” person. There is only you and your opportunity to embrace gift-giving as one way (not the only way, and not even the most important way) to share your abundance, to express Who You Really Are, Who You Are in relationship to another, and your love for another, as well as a chance to acknowledge your gratitude for the gifts (both physical and not) you have received. In this way, you can feel free to spend as much or as little as you choose, be liberated from the trappings of “keeping up with (or doing more than) the Joneses,” and make educated decisions to spend what is comfortable for your family (whether that means zero or 100 presents) without guilt or fear of judgment, competition, or punishment…all the while keeping in mind that your presence may be just the present your child desires!
(Emily A. Filmore is the Creative Co-Director of www.cwgforparents.com. She is also the author/illustrator of the “With My Child” Series of books about bonding with your child through everyday activities. Her books are available at www.withmychildseries.com. To contact Emily, please email her at Emily@cwgforparents.com.)