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Are You A Giver Or Receiver?

Each year Christmas retailers bombard us with a never-ending string of offerings on TV, via the internet, in the paper, and over the air waves.

For some, being told we deserve a new car or whatever else the commercials are pushing on us lessens what Christmas is really all about. For me, Christmas is about giving of myself and not about expecting anything in return.

My favorite way of giving of myself is being with my family. This year was especially meaningful because I was able to be with Mary, our daughters and their families. It was all about love and laughter with everyone in the family.

Sadly, there are many families who are unable to experience such a wonderful feeling in being together. Much of the dysfunction that creates schisms and rifts within so many of these families has to do with perspective. And that perspective is looking at the world as a “receiver” rather than a “giver.”

When you measure the world by what you get rather than what you give, you will always find yourself unfulfilled. Here are two examples:

The Jones Family hired Coppertree a few years ago to help transition their family business from one generation to the next. There were concerns by the parents that various family members might feel as though they were treated differently in the transition of the ownership and leadership of the business. Their goal was to have the family stay together.

We visited with each of the adult members of the family by household to understand how they viewed the eventual transitions. We wanted to know if they were looking at the transition from the perspective of a giver or receiver. Without exception everyone in the family was willing to give whatever it would take to preserve and perpetuate the family’s legacy. With that in mind the family began the process of laying out their plans for the transition that will take place very soon.

This year for Christmas the entire Jones family gave of themselves and their time to be together in a city far from home. While it’s never easy to travel during the holidays what was most important for this family was to be together, no matter what the cost. Hurray for the Jones’s!

The Hampton Family asked Coppertree to mediate a family dispute concerning their family business following the passing of their mother. The next generation, consisting of four brothers, was in disagreement as to the nature of the business. The older brothers believed their mother wanted the business to be managed as a family run business for the purpose of compensating all family members equally while the younger two saw it as a family-owned business that should grow for the good of present and future generations.

In this case the older brothers whose perspectives emanated from that of receivers dominated the dialogue. Their focus was more about what was in it for them today rather than what they could “give/give-up” of themselves for the good of multiple generations of the family.

They have been unable to resolve their differences to date. The family has splintered and for the first time in decades the Hampton’s did not celebrate Christmas together last year. Just like Ebenezer Scrooge it’s not too late for this family to change their perspective.

Are you a giver or a receiver when it comes to family matters? Are you looking out for yourself or are you giving of yourself to those you care most about?

May the joy of Christmas giving be with you in the coming year. Happy New Year!

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