Just one more thing: Giving with no strings attachedJust one more thing: Giving with no strings attached

   We were driving home after a long day's work, my youngest son and I. My son, who usually plays the strong, silent type, turned to me and said, "Hey, Dad, let's stop and get some flowers to take home to Mom." My wife was ill with stomach flu.
   "Good idea," I said, "she'd love that."
   "Yea," he said, "she could use some encouragement right now."
   He rushed into the florist to buy a couple of roses with his money by the way. I sat in the car and thought, Someday, he's going to make some little girl a fine husband. He made his mother happy with those roses, and he made his dad proud. He practiced something that many married people need to learn the art of giving with no strings attached.
   Husbands and wives have been exchanging gifts from time immemorial as a way of showing that they care. But gifts can be used to manipulate.

Displaying generosity

   Sometimes we give gifts to display our generosity. A husband who buys a corsage for his wife rather than a bouquet for her to enjoy at home could be doing that. Why? More people will see the corsage and think what a fine, considerate husband he is. Christ had strong words for those who tried to pull this stunt on God (Matthew 6:1-4).
   Another adulterated gift is the one we wrap in an "I'll teach you" attitude. Maybe a wife wants her husband to be more attentive. She hears of a good book on the subject. She buys it, wraps it and presents it to her husband as a "loving" gift. But an aura of insincerity surrounds it, the gift is her attempt to change her husband's ways. There are strings attached. Her motives may be good, but her means are devious.
   Gifts may also be used as bribes to dominate others: Be a good boy or girl, and you will be rewarded.
   If you give a big, expensive gift, you may want to make your mate feel indebted. He who pays the piper calls the tune.

Christian attitude

   What should our Christian attitude be toward giving in marriage?
   "Be good to each other." That advice, given not by a minister at the wedding, but by an elderly gas station attendant along the honeymoon route, made a deep impression on some close friends of ours, and I have pondered it often.
   "Being good to each other," we will seek to give joy as well as to get it. We will try to do all we can to make our partner happy and will not be constantly preoccupied with "What's in it for me?"
   It's almost guaranteed that when a husband and wife think almost exclusively in terms of what they should get from each other, they will both be miserable, but when they both think and act in terms of what they can give to each other, they will both be happy.
   Some of the most-fun gifts are simple and no-show. One wife I know gave her husband, upon purchase of their first home, a small fig tree for their backyard. She wanted her "love" to have his own fig tree to sit under.

Some ideas

   Examples of other little gift surprises: How about giving your mate a cup of coffee or tea in bed one Sabbath morning? Men, when was the last time you put your arms around your wife and kissed her without selfish motives, or said those three little words women love to hear, " I love you," in such a way that she knew you really meant it?
   Such gifts are surprises that say, "You're special." It all reverts back to the attitude of "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
   And when a gift is given it needs to be acknowledged. Some of us have less trouble giving than receiving. We can be generous in sharing ourselves, but are too proud to let others give much to us. We probably feel that receiving something will obligate us and make us more dependent on that person. But marriage is a relationship of interdependence, and we do need each other. To be the proud giver without being a grateful receiver is to act out of a self-righteous superiority, which in the long run holds limited promise for mutual growth and fulfillment. Mutual giving and receiving are part of the healthy rhythm of marriage.
   Mature partners are not afraid to ask gifts of each other, nor are they sparing in their expressions of gratitude. Words of appreciation are a vital part of the language of love. There are a hundred ways of saying. "Thank you" and we do well to use them all, remembering that one of the best is simply to say it. To do so is not to be flatteringly phoney, but openly honest in response to another person's being good to us. No strings attached.

Publication Date: September 21, 1981
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