“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.”
It is better to give than receive. We hear it all the time—especially this time of year. But sometimes I wonder if we really believe it.
We say the phrase as if the generalization is a forgone conclusion. We print it on bumper stickers and billboards. We teach it to our children. And we mutter it under our breath when circumstances don’t go as expected. But in reality, the axiom is difficult to live out.
We live in a world that seeks personal gain, even encourages it. And as a result, we want to make sure the things we receive are equal to the gifts that we give. But I think the statement does ring true: it is better to give than receive. The accumulation of possessions offers only short-term pleasure that fades quickly. On the other hand, generosity and giving offers a long lasting happiness, purpose, and fulfillment.
It is better to give than receive. And the stakes only get higher when we consider the themes of Christmas. Christmas, you see, is far more than pretty presents under a tree. Christmas is a celebration of love and joy and peace. These are the greatest gifts we can ever give. But they are often the most difficult—especially if we have not received them from others.
We dig in our heels. We decide we will offer forgiveness, but only if they make the first phone call. We will show love, but only after they sacrifice something. And we may respond in goodness, but only after they start showing some kindness to us first.
Suddenly, we fall into the same foolish trap believing it is better to receive than give. But the themes of Christmas should not be kept to ourselves. They can only be experienced when given away. So, let’s break them out:
Love. Christmas is a season of love—a celebration of sacrificing what we have to show appreciation to those who mean the most. And while expressing love to another may be the most beautiful thing we can ever do, it can also be one of the most difficult—especially when those who should love us the most withhold it. Love anyway. True love is not self-seeking. It keeps no record of wrongs. And demands nothing in return.
Joy. This world never allows for perfect circumstances. And those who wait to find joy in them, never will. It is unwise to base our happiness fully on the actions of others. But that doesn’t mean we can’t bring a little joy into the life of another by the things that we do and the words that we say. We can still be intentional about spreading joy wherever we go.
Peace. Family and personal relationships can cause conflict, turmoil, and stress at any time, but the tensions are often heightened during the holidays. Offer the gift of peace this Christmas by taking the first step. One phone call or conversation may not make amends for years of hurt, but it is still the first step that needs to get taken by somebody.
Hope. Hope is one of the greatest assets in the entire world. It is one of the greatest treasures we can ever find for ourselves. And it is one of the greatest gifts we can ever give to somebody else. See the good in others. Believe in their greatest potential. And encourage often.
Reconciliation. At its heart, Christmas is a story of reconciliation. A baby was born to offer forgiveness to those who need it most. In the same way, the holiday season creates opportunity to offer forgiveness and reconciliation to those who need it most in our lives. We can take the first step. Even before an apology has ever been uttered, we can lay the foundation for reconciliation that makes it possible.
Goodwill. People may desire to harm us, but wishing pain and suffering upon them in response only compounds the hurt. Harboring resentment, ill will, and bitterness in our hearts allows their actions to control us indefinitely into the future. On the other hand, wishing goodwill upon those who hurt us frees our soul. And it allows us to move on to better things.
These are the themes of Christmas and we should grant them freely. Maybe the greatest gifts we can give during Christmas are the very things we most desire to receive. And, isn’t that the Golden Rule, to “do unto others as we would have done unto us?” Give. Receive. Be blessed!