In today’s timely thought for the day, Eknath Easwaran addresses holiday giving. He says that there is nothing wrong with giving gifts during the holidays, but that if we give them expecting to receive gifts in return, we are not so much giving as we are entering into a “contract.” Furthermore, he suggests that instead of giving expensive gifts that the recipients may not even enjoy all that much, we should give more of ourselves. One way we can do this is to give up smoking, drinking alcohol, overeating, or some other unwholesome habit. We shouldn’t do this in the spirit of grim self-denial. We should do it joyfully out of love for our family and friends. Then we are giving the most precious of gifts.
I’m not sure just how this would work or how well it would work. Experts tell us that if we want to overcome an addiction such as smoking or alcoholism, we need to take it “one day at a time” instead of telling ourselves and others that we are giving up our addiction forever. The former breaks up our renunciation into psychologically manageable chunks, whereas the latter presents, for most of us, an impossibly large burden. I suppose that we could tell our loved ones during the holidays that we pledge to do our best to overcome a particular bad habit or addiction a day at a time and ask them to help us along the way.
Or, perhaps, we could simply resolve to ourselves that we’ll try our best to give up the habit or addiction not as a formal holiday gift, but as a year-round aspect of fulfilling one element of Easwaran’s Eight Point Program—putting the welfare of others ahead of our own selfish and destructive pleasures. And then, it’s vital that we faithfully practice the other seven elements of the program since they all complement and reinforce each other.
What can I give in this way to my loved ones this holiday season?