How I’ve Learnt to Give

Sometimes, the simplest way to determine how to give is to ask ourselves how we would like to receive. By Tim Hoffman

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How do I channel my desire to give so that it doesn’t make the receiver feel awkward, or worse, come across as arrogant and belittling? I’m sure many of us are pondering this and similar questions as we take part in Warm Up Winter. Here are some of my reflections based on what I’ve learnt from being on the receiving end.

The importance of relationship

My father is one of the most generous people I know. When I’d go home for university holidays, he’d never let me leave without giving me some cash for fuel for the drive back to campus. Even a decade later, he continues to give to me in so many ways – often unexpectedly and sometimes lavishly.

So does his giving make me feel awkward? No – because he’s my dad! We have a well-established, 35-year-old relationship where no matter what is said or what is done, there is an unspoken and profound basis of understanding regarding our actions. I know that my dad expresses his love through acts of giving. It’s not that he loves me any less than those fathers who do more talking and hugging, but his primary way of showing me his love is through his giving.

But if it wasn’t for the fact that I have a deep personal bond and relationship with my dad, I would probably have felt incredibly awkward about the untold expenses that he’s made on my behalf. The presence of relationship makes a massive difference in the transaction, both in the giving and receiving. Those in relationship can know each other’s needs and respond meaningfully and appropriately, even without ever being explicitly asked for help.

The importance of how a gift is given

A while ago, my wife and I were on the receiving end of an extremely gracious act of generosity. A couple, whom we hadn’t seen in several years, offered to pay a significant debt of ours. They may not have been close friends, but we were comfortable with receiving their generosity because of the way they gave it.

The offer came after a wonderful evening of sharing what God had been doing and was doing in our lives – in other words, relationship building! We casually, and unintentionally, mentioned that we’d recently incurred some debt through life circumstance. The next morning as we were saying good-bye, one of them told me that they’d been struck by something we had said the night before and that they wanted to pay our debt.

We hadn’t asked for help and we hadn’t even specified how much money it was! In fact, I’d mentioned that we’d figured out an affordable payment plan that would allow us to pay it off in the next two years. When I asked him why he wanted to help us, he replied that as they were now free from their own financial debts they’d felt the Holy Spirit prompting them to help us do the same.  Within the next few weeks, we received a check in the mail that covered our debt in full.

I’m still in awe of their generosity. What a blessing! Did it feel awkward? At first, as we weren’t yet the deepest of friends. But does it still feel awkward or make me feel dependent or inferior to them now? No! In many ways it’s improved our friendship, because of the way the giving was done.

They were so humble about it, which in turn humbled us. They didn’t seek recognition. They didn’t proclaim their act of generosity from the mountaintops of Facebook. They wanted to help quietly because they’d felt God prompt them to do so. How we give radically changes when we give out of a revelation of what God has done for us and not out of a sense of guilt.

Generosity is about more than just material giving

Around the same time, we had some other friends who weren’t able to help us financially but who were still extremely generous to us.  Having a lot of experience in personal finance, they graciously made time to give us insight and advice over several phone conversations and emails, even though they were both very busy.

Thanks to them, our budget is now more realistic and better balanced, and this has helped us avoid getting into debt again. Out of love, they gave us something worth just as much as the check in the mail– their time and talents. There are so many different ways to give! Even if we aren’t able to give financially, we can still bless people with our time, talents, and resources.

In what ways has Warm Up Winter challenged you to think about how we give?

Do you have any similar experiences of giving when you’ve been on the receiving end?

How could this experience change how you give?

This blog post is part of our Warm Up Winter blog series. Read our previous WUW posts here

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