They aren’t always the same. The verb can take on a meaning of supplying something to someone, but the noun happens with a very special form of giving. A gift happens when the giving is pure.
I believe there are some qualities of pure giving that are all together forgotten in most of our “giving” today.
- Pure giving is marked by cheerfulness
- It happens even when feel the receiver actually owes you
- It does not demand payment
- It does not seek any recognition
- It does not wait for a return of any favor.
- Pure giving does not ask “what’s in it for me”
In essence, pure giving is all about the receiver. You’re secondary to the whole situation if you’re giving purely. Pure giving is loving.
Love suffers long and is kind;
love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
I Corinthians 13:4-7 NKJV
Some examples of modern gifts that I don’t believe are really gifts.
- Holiday gift exchanges
- Cleaning the house for your spouse, so they make time for sex
- Bringing treats to clients, in order for them to feel better about you
- Buying someone a wedding present because it is socially expected
However… I don’t think any of those things are wrong either! I think those can be good things.
I think it’s completely fine to participate in exchanges. I think it’s ok to give someone a token of appreciation for their business, hoping that they continue their business with you.
I think we just need to be explicit in, our own minds, about what we are doing when we give something.
When giving a gift, do it right. Make it about them. Make them being at their very best, your biggest desire. Lose yourself.
When giving for anything at all in return, a behavior change on their part, recognition from them, continued business etc., don’t call it a gift. Call it what it is. Call it a transaction.
And finally, for what it is worth, beware of creating implicit social contracts, they can lead to fear and resentment.