To Give Is Better Than To Receive – Why Generosity Embodies the Christmas Spirit

“it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35)

We have all heard this phrase quoted many times before- especially around the holiday season. Although Christmas has become associated with shopping and commercial consumerism, when we look deeper at this advice we start to understand the true meaning of Christmas. It is about a spirit of generosity and kindness to others – whether or not that means buying them the latest consumer goods. Living a life of kindness and giving is spiritually fulfilling and it will have a profound positive effect on the community around you.

The Power of Giving

There has been psychological research into the power of giving – with fascinating results. In a survey of over 600 US citizens, Liz Dunn (a social psychologist) found that spending money on others caused people greater happiness than spending the same amount of money on themselves. This result was found throughout all income levels – both the rich and the poor felt better when they were giving something to someone else.

In another experiment, Dunn worked with students at the University of British Columbia in Canada. She gave the students all an envelope with money in it. They had to either spend the money on themselves before 5pm that day, or spend it on someone else before the appointed time. After the experiment, those who spent the money on others reported feeling happier than those who bought something for themselves.

The envelope sometimes contained 20 dollars, sometimes 5 dollars – but the results were always the same. No matter what the amount, spending on others made people happier.

In another article in The Atlantic, a researcher found that volunteering had health benefits. He recommended that doctors prescribe volunteering in the same way that they would recommend healthy diets or exercise – as it has a measurable positive impact on physical well being.

Volunteering to help others can be a way to make you feel more connected to the world, reminding you that you are one part of a larger whole. This can be one of the reasons why it instils a feeling of purpose and enhanced well being.

How Can You Help Others?

Think about how you can give to others this Christmas (and all year round as well). You don’t have to be wealthy to be able to give. If you don’t have a lot of money, you can make homemade treats or write a meaningful letter or card to your friends and neighbours. Or, you can be generous with your time.

Help someone by shoveling their sidewalk, babysitting their kids, looking after their pets while they are on holiday, running errands for them when they are ill and generally assisting them whenever you can. Or, just spend some quality time with someone – sometimes that it is the best gift of all.

These acts of kindness are fulfilling for your soul and they show your friends and neighbours that you genuinely care about them.