Giving versus receiving

Is it better to give or to receive?

Giving versus receiving
Yes because...

Receiving gifts from others can be nice but it is much more satisfying to see the pleasure that the ...

Receiving gifts from others can be nice but it is much more satisfying to see the pleasure that the gifts you have chosen give to others. Covetousness (desiring material possessions) can only be temporarily satisfied even by opening a whole stack of presents, but the warm glow of a truly altruistic (unselfish) act lasts much longer. Even young children learn that it is fun to see the pleasure mummy gets when they give her something they have made at kindergarten. And now scientists have proved the connection, using brain scans to show that giving someone else a gift results in more activity in the parts of the brain associated with happiness than receiving a gift from someone else. This is further supported by a Harvard Business School study which found that, for a given level of income, those who gave away more of their money were on average happier.
No because...
Everybody says that giving presents is better, but everyone secretly prefers to receive them. We all love the excitement of opening a parcel, the thrill of surprise and acquisition, and the glow of knowing the giver cares for you. Really, the only reason we bother to traipse round stores sorting out presents for other people is because if we didn’t provide presents for others, we wouldn’t get so many ourselves. The trick, of course, is to make sure that overall you gain from the overall gift exchange. In this way, we are all “homo economicus”, the rational economic actor who always seeks to maximise the value of what they own. And for young people, receiving presents is especially important – it is the greatest single way in which economic resources are transferred down through the generations. The young simply can’t afford financially to give presents that are worth as much as those they receive, and frankly, they wouldn’t want to anyway.

Giving versus receiving
Yes because...

Giving more gifts than you receive is good for your social status. Traditionally gift exchange has ...

Giving more gifts than you receive is good for your social status. Traditionally gift exchange has been an important part of social relationships in many societies, with those who give the most presents to others signalling their higher position in society. A patron who gives gifts to others who cannot reciprocate in kind establishes their economic superiority, and places the recipients in a socially-indebted, client relationship to the giver. In this way, it is definitely more advantageous to give than to receive, and even in a modern society the generous gift-giver can establish a beneficial network of relationships that may help them achieve business or social success throughout the rest of the year.
No because...
Society today is much more egalitarian than the feudal structures of the past. No one who calculates the net gain or loss in status from gift exchange will ever really be happy with their place in society. It is much better to accept each gift gratefully, seeing it as a symbol of how much others love and value you. We can never truly know the mind of another person, so we can’t know exactly how much joy our presents have given them. But we can know our own minds and take pleasure in the loving gifts of others. In this way, it is indeed better to receive than to give.

Giving versus receiving
Yes because...

How many of the gifts we receive are truly welcome anyway? Most presents we get given simply reveal...

How many of the gifts we receive are truly welcome anyway? Most presents we get given simply reveal how little our friends or relations really know about our tastes. From sweaters we will never wear, to books we will never read and music we will never listen to, what we receive is often not what we want. At least when we give gifts we have some control over the process and can hope that they will be welcome. By contrast, the process of opening others gifts to us is inevitably tinged with disappointment.
No because...
It is just as true that the presents we give are often not wanted by the recipients, so this argument cuts both ways. In fact, studies have found that the value people put on the gifts they receive is usually considerably lower than the amount they cost the giver to purchase. But there is a solution; just as it might be a good idea to ask those you are buying for what they actually want (yes, really), so you can help them in turn. Simply leave a few relevant catalogues lying around the house, perhaps with helpful asterisks against desirable items, or, for your more web-savvy relatives, try emailing them the URLs of appropriate online retailers’ choicer items. After undertaking such helpful preparation work, you will truly deserve to enjoy receiving the resulting presents!

Giving versus receiving
Yes because...

In the developed west, we all have too much stuff anyway – more books, music, clothes, hardware and ...

In the developed west, we all have too much stuff anyway – more books, music, clothes, hardware and electronics than our grandparents could even have imagined when they were our age. So most gifts we receive make very little difference to our comfortable lives, other than providing yet another thing to be found room for. Some people even pay experts to help them “de-clutter” their houses and lives by getting rid of the vast mass of unnecessary stuff that surrounds them – much of it, no doubt, given to them by well-meaning friends and relatives as gifts. For such people, giving without having to receive in return is definitely preferable.
No because...
Who says you can ever have too much stuff? Whatever you have in life, it is always nice to have more – in evolutionary terms, it allows us to hoard resources against an uncertain tomorrow. Often others know us better than ourselves and give us presents we would not have thought of for ourselves, surprising us with their thoughtfulness and challenging us through their gift to try new things. And friends and relatives can also give us things that we have really wanted, but which we could not justify buying for ourselves.

Giving versus receiving
Yes because...

It may briefly be fun to get presents, but for well-brought up people everywhere the pleasure of rec...

It may briefly be fun to get presents, but for well-brought up people everywhere the pleasure of receiving is tainted by the demands of good manners. When you receive presents you have to go through the dreaded ritual of writing thank-you notes (or worse, forcing your children to write them!). Few indeed are the gifts that make this burden worthwhile, which is why most middle-class people enjoy giving other people presents much more than they like receiving them.
No because...
What a miserable, bourgeois and thoroughly uptight outlook on life. First, lighten up and enjoy the moment. Second, please don’t inflict your own hang-ups on your kids. After all, it’s a present! You didn’t have to earn it. Someone gave it to you because they like you. Isn’t that great? Doesn’t it make you want to thank the person who gave it to you? Maybe instead of writing you should call them to express your gratitude. There, that wasn’t so hard, was it?

Giving versus receiving
Yes because...

Choosing presents for other people is an excellent excuse for going shopping. Visiting shopping mal...

Choosing presents for other people is an excellent excuse for going shopping. Visiting shopping malls and department stores has become the most popular leisure activity in the developed world, but there is still an unfortunate stigma attached to consumption for its own sake. But no one can criticise you for heading for the warmth, colour, bright lights and food courts of the nearest retail centre if you are doing it for others.
No because...
Shopping is an exhausting and depressing experience, even if some of it is done online these days. It is slow, expensive and frustrating, with so much choice between so many types of essentially pointless objects, sold to you by inept, uncaring salespeople amid heaving and unhygienic crowds. What is the purpose of all this conspicuous consumption anyway? Certainly it would be better to forget about shopping for gifts one Christmas, and be happy that the people who give you things slogged round stores instead of you. Even if you got given fewer presents next year it would still be worth it.


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