What Does It Mean to Give?

What does it mean to give?

Growing up in the family I grew up in, giving was done with the expectation of getting something in return, many a time it felt like a pre-payment for something.  Receiving a gift was never really free.

So often I recall being given gifts, some were rescinded and some sold behind my back – like my graduation dress and a microwave I purchased and lent to her, some were held over my head for favours yet to be rendered.  And some gifts were only given so as to appear fair to her other children so she could get away with the lie, “I treat my kids all the same.”  Which she didn’t.

A mother with NPD (Narcissistic Personality Disorder) doesn’t give gifts without expected payment, at least where it concerned me anyway.  Gifts were held over my head … when I didn’t want to do something that she could do or was her responsibility to do, for instance, she’d play the, “I didn’t have to buy _____ for you, you know.”  It was her way of making me feel guilty, and making me feel guilty is how she manipulated me into doing things she wanted, and as the compliant daughter I once was – I did them.  I did them in efforts to earn her love and affection (which never worked.)  She made me feel as if I were privileged to be her daughter and thus she could treat me (abuse me) as she saw fit. The reality was that she was abusive and it made me feel used among other things.

Her gifts were construed as a privilege she didn’t have to give.  I eventually learned that each gift she gave would actually be, and was, payment for something.  I just never knew what that something was going to be; sometimes she would just rescind the gift for no apparent reason, out of spite because I didn’t do something she wanted me to, or maybe I said something she didn’t like.

For instance, my parents bought me a 10-speed bike when I was about 15 years old.  When I was around 23 or 24 years old, I was going to take my old bike in and trade it in on a new one.  My mother saw me cleaning it up a bit and asked me what I was doing.  I told her that I was going to trade it in on a new bike – to help cut the cost of buying a new bike outright.  She told me I couldn’t do that because it wasn’t really mine – after all, she paid for it.

I came to resent her gifts … as they were never really gifts – they were loans or pre-payments for services to be rendered.  Some gifts were things she liked that I did not like and she knew it, but bought them anyway – as always, she took joy in my hurts and disappointments.

This is not how gift-giving works.  A true gift is when it is given and it has no conditions attached to it.  When you give a gift, you don’t expect a gift back, you don’t expect to be paid back for it and you certainly don’t hold gifts over people’s heads to get them to do your bidding.

Her gifts, like her love, were very conditional.  Gifts are not loans or bribes, they are not intended for blackmail or given for down payment on services to be rendered.

When you give a gift it should be done out of love, unconditionally and with careful thought, without expecting anything in return for it.  That is what it means to give.

~ Saoirse Quill


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