We often hear, “I gave him the shirt off my back, and I get nothing from him in return”.
But in reality, if I give a gift and expect a return for it, it is not a gift; it is a trade. So, we cannot dignify this giving as a gift if we expect something back. Jesus recommended that we give or lend without concern for return.
This is no easy task to achieve. We do not want to be taken advantage of. We must be careful about who we lend or give to. We cannot be a door mat for anyone. It is bad for us and bad for them. If we give to people, it must be because we really want to. I believe that I should not say “yes” to anyone unless I really desire the yes. Then, if I do not get a return, I can and will live with it. I am not guided by “shoulds” that others put on me.
I should do this; a priest should do that. I cannot let the “shoulds” control me. If I am disappointed, it leads to anger and resentments. I do not need more anger.
So, I need to figure out whether I am giving a gift or making a trade. My attitude will tell me which. If I have expectations, it is not a gift. It is a gift if I want to give without strings. Then I can be at peace no matter what comes.
To live this way, I must be prepared to say “no!” If I cannot say yes gracefully, I should say no. A no is better than anger against the person to who I am giving. So, is this a gift or a trade? Do I really want to give it?
Fr. James O'Leary