Reciprocity is the practise of giving and receiving for mutual benefit, for restoring, building and maintaining symbiotic relationships.
At this time of year we can become overwhelmed by the pressure and expectation to give gifts as an act of love and appreciation. And yet, because there is pressure and expectation it can often feel like an obligation that is draining rather than enriching. That is why I am offering another perspective, a perspective that may sound trite but when investigated a little deeper could be the key to filling up your cup (or pocket) instead of emptying it.
Giving is receiving.
It sounds simple and perhaps too simplistic, so let’s break it down and make it realistic. First, ask yourself who are giving gifts to and why? It is pointless to give someone a gift that they find little value in and it is a waste in resources, not to mention your time and energy. In my experience it is a shallow gesture and is better to not give anything. However, it could be an opportunity to find out a little more about the person in mind, who are they really and what do they really value?
If that sounds like a lot of work then narrow it down, choose who you really want to give a gift to and not out of obligation. This can be a time to consciously make a choice to nourish those relationships that you truly value or wish to build a stronger relationship with. Even if that means not giving gifts to everyone you think will be expecting one. If you feel someone expects a gift from you then that expectation alone is an indication of an imbalance in your relationship.
It feels draining to give a gift out of expectation or obligation, doesn’t it? That is when giving is definitely not receiving. When we give gifts out of expectation, we reaffirm a relationship is based on material things rather than heartfelt appreciation. Giving a gift out of expectation or obligation stimulates a sense of resentment and that glass half empty feeling. The message we send with this kind of gift is that our relationship is not a mutual source of overflowing fullness.
That is not to say that giving a gift is wrong, that is missing the point. The point here is that the energy behind the giving of a gift is the underlying message that we send out. When you give someone a gift, are you saying – ‘I appreciate you and our relationship’ or are you saying, ‘Here is something that I hope will make you like me’? Giving gifts is not about being liked or doing what you should.
This time of the year is less about giving of stuff and more about the presence you offer with everyday interactions. Doesn't it feel better to offer deep listening, support and understanding to the people you care about? How present are you when you are in a meeting with a colleague? How attentive are you to the needs of those you live with? How much of your time do you give to your family and friends? And are you really there, all of you, wholeheartedly in those moments?
The true meaning of giving is receiving is the immense love and joy you feel inside when you give your full attention to those you are with. Your presence is like a mirror to another person, whether it be your colleague, your parent or your friend. When you are a mirror to another person they feel truly seen, and when a person feels truly seen they blossom before your eyes. You see their deepest reservoir of beauty and they see their beauty reflected in you.
Reciprocity with presence is a practise. It may not come easily or naturally at first, but it is the most mutually rewarding gift we can give.