Posted on March 25, 2014.
Giving to Love versus Giving to Get
Why do we give? Giving has been identified as one of the habits that has been “proven” to make you happier. When people self-rate how much they give, they rate it pretty highly on a scale of 1-10 (7.41 i.e. people on average rate that they are about 75% giving).
But then why aren’t people happier? I would like to suggest that people don’t always understand what it truly means to give.
We have many different types of giving in our lives. There’s the person who gives in spite of a lack of gratitude from the recipient, gives until they’re drained of everything then tries to squeeze out more giving. They give to an abusive spouse or husband, trying to keep the peace, trying to put a bandage on a bigger problem. This giving is founded on fear. New studies show a response to fear, common in some women, called "Tend & Befriend" which causes women to attempt to placate strong (often abusive) members of their "tribe" by attempting to befriend them while tending to their children. The primordial logic is if the strong angry man likes you, he can be strong and angry at your enemies, thus protecting you and your children. This instinctual giving in the face of abuse blocks happiness because these circumstances are miserable and because there’s never an exchange involved.
So what about turning this give-until-there's-nothing-left born of fear on its head: a more aggressive & defensive form of giving where one demands something in return for the giving investment? When the pendulum swings in the other direction, when giving has strings attached, it increases anticipation and a sense of waiting for something to happen. When you live in the imaginary future it leads to anxiety, unfulfilled needs become disappointment, and a potential for a retribution backlash against the receiver builds up the longer the gifts go unreciprocated. The giver has created a trap of waiting for the gift to come back to them in some form. In some ways, this is more a form of bribery than giving: I did this “for you”, why didn’t you do something back? It is lacking in unconditional generosity; it has a price tag. The price tag is the giver’s freedom to go on living and feeling; the giver traps themselves. This type of fishing for return gifts leaves the giver invested in a potential future outcome; full and complete happiness waits for the fulfillment of this possibly unspoken obligation.
True happiness from giving only comes when giving is unconditional, and when it is passion-based. When the gift truly comes from the heart with no strings of hoping it will end the abuse and "buy" the receiver to your own side, or expectation that it will return to you in the form of reciprocation. Happiness in giving comes from the truly open heart. When we initiate the act of giving detached from receiving any external benefits, it is truly most beneficial to the giver. It’s a form of unconditional love, and doing so grants the giver freedom to go on living and feeling, and if it is done with full emotion and intention it comes paired with euphoric feelings from oxytocin and endorphins that come with love and passion.
This passion-based giver isn’t giving to keep the peace or buy protection — they already have peace inside themselves and are detached from the reactions of others to affect how they feel about themselves. They're protected by their own actions and assertions, and can see more clearly when a situation has become so hurtful that they must exit with compassion.
How can you become a passion-based giver? Unchain yourself from conditions on your happiness. When you are grateful for what you have, and grateful for what you receive, you can remain happy simply in the act of giving and in the Faith that you have seeded the world with more kindness. Somehow it may come back around to you through some circuitous path, so it is always best to give so often that you stop keeping a tally.
Do you give too much? Do you have many expectations chaining you to external outcomes? What are you waiting for, or expecting to get in return?