Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Spirit of Giving

I am sitting here watching TV for a few minutes waiting for my hair to dry enough that I can get a brush through it. And I heard something that I have heard many times before without even really giving it a second though. "The True Spirit of Giving". I hear people say this off and on, "this is the true spirit of giving" "I am trying to teach the true spirit of giving" etc.

But more than once it has been an adult forcing a child to give up something, a toy, a game, a prized possession. Is that really the "True Spirit of Giving" or is this something that many adults say in an attempt to make themselves feel better about forcing a child to do something that breaks the child's heart. You know what I am talking about.., it is said in a way that it validates what they are doing, like children must learn the "True Spirit of Giving" and this is how we teach it, we force them to give up something they value most. Some sort of mandate for parenthood, if you don't force your child to do this, they will never learn the "True Spirit of Giving" and thus anyone not in compliance is a *bad parent*.

But what is the "True Spirit of Giving". I guess in my heart I feel it is something given freely, when you don't have to give, that is done in a spirit of love with a true intent to help, no matter the praise of doing so, no matter the recognition. But giving when you are not even sure anyone else will see or notice, and giving freely from your heart.

Does it mean I have to give my most prize possession to be in the "True Spirit of Giving"? I don't believe so, wouldn't the "True Spirit of Giving" be giving something that was truly needed. I just don't believe that it has to HURT me, to be in the spirit of giving.

And what do we learn if we are forced to give something away, something we truly love. I think I would quickly come to believe that giving has to hurt, so why give. Maybe that my parents enjoy my pain, so why show my feelings around them. Maybe if they don't know exactly what possessions I like, I won't have to give them up. That charity is a painful thing, and something to be avoided. Also that my possessions aren't really mine, that it is a false sense of ownership. Or that the world runs on the power of the biggest. If I am bigger I can force people to do what I feel is good for them, regardless of how that other person feels. Also that adults know what is best, that a child really doesn't know what is best for themselves, they have to be forced. Or maybe that parenting is about breaking the spirit of the child. And that love hurts. My parents can't be trusted. I need to hide things from them.

Why would anyone want to "teach" these lessons to a child, their own child. I guess here in our house I give because I want to help. We give much and we give often, but no one is forced to give, and there are times we don't give. My boys do give, not their most prized possessions, but they give what THEY want to give, and never forced. And they are overflowing with love, kindness, concern for others, and compassion. It isn't something I had to force on them (even if I could). I "could" force them to give, but I don't. I "can't" force them to learn a lesson. No one can.

So does forcing a child to give away his most prized possession teach them anything? Does it teach the lesson that some parents think? Do they learn anything from the force?

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