The social value of the gift: why is it important and makes you happy?
by Stefania Conci on Mar 08, 2023
The gift , understood as an exchange without any constraints, is an important gesture and has a high social value. As Marcel Mauss (French historian, anthropologist and sociologist) argued, the act of giving helps to establish interpersonal bonds , based on an intimate knowledge of others. For several millennia it has been a symbol of community and is able to make adults and children happy. Let's find out how.
Giving: a gesture that is anything but trivial
Regardless of age and occasion, we all enjoy receiving gifts. But did you know that even the act of giving can make you happy? From the in-depth analyzes of many psychologists and sociologists, a small present made with the heart can refer to an image of altruism and positivity.
If you pay attention, there are many occasions in which we give gifts, our daily life is marked by small gifts . Think, for example, of the tip you give the waiter, the coffee you buy a friend, or the muffin you have on your colleague's desk. They are simple gestures but which, done with the heart, communicate esteem, affection, manage to warm the soul and even improve a day that started off on the wrong foot.
Let's face it, even gifts for a special event increase anticipation, a bit like it happens for children. They make you feel at the center of attention and if given with authenticity they bring people closer, without necessarily using words. They interpret the desire and taste of the recipient, guessing something that hasn't been explicitly revealed before.
The social value of small gestures
Unfortunately, over time the meaning of gift has undergone some alteration and certainly not in a positive way. Modern consumer society no longer sees gifts as a means of communication, but as an individual advantage , a ritual, something to be repeated rather than a personal initiative as a sort of duty.
In the vicinity of the Christmas holidays, for example, caught up in the frenzy of the moment, we don't take into account the needs and desires of others. Instead, we buy something on the fly, without heat, keeping more to the economic aspect than to the sentimental value, for material purposes or, worse, to fulfill specific requests.
This way of thinking, however, overshadows those gifts that have no value from a financial point of view, but that count in life : respect, love, esteem, attention, time, communication .
To regain possession of these precious possessions we should perhaps learn to rediscover the beauty of simple gifts, such as a book or a handcrafted embroidered cushion . Size doesn't matter, because what matters is expressing all our affection to those we love or esteem. If you know how to knead or love to experiment, you could donate a dessert, fresh bread or homemade soap, thus expressing your feelings. Whoever receives your gift will surely appreciate it. What message will you communicate? Esteem, affection, attention.
Small gestures are also the most heartfelt ones and bring happiness. According to Andreas Sidler, a psychologist from Zurich, the act of giving recalls the positive emotions of our childhood, referring to the intrinsic bond with the parents. In fact, from the moment of birth, mum and dad offer themselves, give attention, love, protection and security without asking for anything in return, unconditionally and this makes us feel good, it makes us feel satisfied.
Giving something to a loved one, according to the psychologist, means evoking positive childhood memories that instill happiness. In some way, therefore, we transmit the same unconditional affection that we received as children to those who offer our gift.
Let us therefore detach ourselves from the materialistic vision of the gift and reconnect with the ancient values that warm the heart so much. Let's start with the children. They are conditioned by the continuous commercials, but let's ask ourselves if they have the same value as a simple game that aims to stimulate the creativity of the little one. An animal-shaped plush cushion , inspired by the magic of the woods, for example, can give life to new imaginative adventures, immersing the child in unique settings to share with any little brothers, mum and dad or with playmates.
The value of the gift: from ancient cultures to today's society
For millennia, the gift has represented the cornerstone of being a community . It has been the quintessential symbol of the ability to build interpersonal and social ties. An example is offered to us by the dictates of Christian culture: God has given us his only son, aware of sacrificing his life to save us. With this in mind, as faithful, we gather to joyfully remember the birth of this exceptional child who embodies such a special gift.
In ancient cultures, the gift acquires a different meaning. In ancient Greece, for example, it was related to the ritual of hospitality (or xenia) in which the lives of the two parties were inextricably linked. This value was passed on from generation to generation. Just think of the episode from the Iliad, in which the two duelists Glauco and Diomede discover that they are bound by the bond of hospitality, which is why they interrupt the fight.
An exception, however, is the concept of gift in Homer's stories, in which Ulysses deceively offers Polyphemus wine in order to get him drunk and blind, so that he can access the city of Troy with the famous horse. In this case, in fact, the gift is seen as a form of coercion, a base attempt at dissuasion . On the basis of this thought, the psychologists Scabini and Greco also establish that, within a couple or a family more generally, when a bond based on the debit/credit calculation is created, sooner or later, disturbed that inevitably lead to deep crises and often even in separation.
Cicero and Seneca interpret the importance of gift giving as a method of social and interpersonal interaction . The first in the De Officiis and the second in the De Beneficiis establish that the exchange of gifts is useful to the community to guarantee the safeguarding of relationships. Furthermore, Seneca argues that the benefit of the gift and happiness lie in expecting nothing in return, which helps to gain virtue and wisdom. Otherwise, one was moved solely and exclusively by ingratitude. Seneca states that a gift must be given with the heart and without any kind of arrogance, avoiding putting the recipient in difficulty. Cicero, on the other hand, has something to object to on this point, because not repaying a gift means being an unhonorable person. Accepting a gift therefore necessarily implies an obligation .
From these considerations, let's move on to modern times. What is the value of the gift today? In a capitalist society like ours, the concept comes very close to the idea given to us by Cicero. A gift ceases to have binding value, but is only seen as something useful . In modern society, even the gift of life, which for years has never been questioned, becomes a problem. Let's think, for example, of Oriana Fallaci's book, Letter to an unborn child, which explains the drama of a working woman who finds herself at a crossroads: whether or not to give birth to the baby she is carrying.
Today's society is questioning values that weren't even contemplated until a few decades ago. At this point, all that remains is to get rid of that economic hammer that hits the head and makes us think only of satisfying our material needs. Giving has effects on social and human development . We try to be happy with little, without expecting anything from anyone.
Let's start with small gestures: if you value or love someone, say it with a gift.
Give moments, your attentions and/or objects not OF economic value but WITH Values for the soul.
On our LA STANZA NEL BOSCO website you will find a wide variety of items WITH value that you can donate to whoever you want. You can choose from an infinite number of unique and customizable products such as cups , winter outfits, plush pillows . Products full of values, such as tradition, handmade and respect for the forest.
Uniqueness is the most precious gift we can have and give away!