Personal Musings

Giving With Strings Attached


I heard two ladies talking while I was having breakfast at the coffee shop this morning. Though I tried not to listen to them, I couldn’t help but do because they were right next to me.


Lady 1: What made you so upset? I didn’t do anything wrong to you.

Lady 2: Why did you help her? Don’t you know she’s my enemy?

Lady 1: I have nothing to do with your fight. She is also my friend.

Lady 2: How could you betray me? I have given you so many things. I have treated you like my own sister. You should be on my side. If you are my friend, you should avoid her.

Lady 1: *Sigh* I know. I thank you for everything you have given (and done for) me. And I did not betray you. But I don’t want to be cold to her just because you’re having a fight. *sigh*

Upon hearing their conversation, some thoughts came across my mind while munching my Mushroom Cheese Panini and sipping my Maple Pecan Latte. The upset lady reminded me of the people who give with strings attached. Are you one of those people? Have you ever been the recipient of such kind of giving? Giving with strings attached is a sort of a power play in which the giver wants to control the receiver’s behavior. It is demeaning not only to the receiver but also to the giver.


Some people love to give and share their blessings. Others love to give in order to receive or demand. The things involved with ‘giving’ is usually thought of as money or tangible goods, but it can also be our time, love, attention and effort. The giving-with-strings-attached scenario usually goes something like: “Okay, I’ll give you A but I expect B from you.” Well, it is fine for a formal and contractual (business) agreement but for casual giving (to friends and loved ones), it is the control freak’s agenda and is resented by the one who receives the gift. If you are the receiver, would you appreciate the gift if you are DEMANDED to do(give) something in return? We would surely want to repay it but within our means and in our own unique ways.

In the first place, we have the choice to do someone a favor or not. If we don’t want to, then let’s not. However if we commit to give, let’s not make it a power tool to manipulate people. If we give without conditions, the benefit that we receive is the joy of knowing that we give out of love and sincerity and not the desire for power. The benefit that the receivers get is the same. It’s the joy of knowing that we care for them and trust them to make decisions for themselves. Their decisions may not be what we would like, but we’ve shown respect for them which in the long run, is a much more valuable message.

We should give to inspire others to give, and not to get something in return or control them. Maybe one day someone will give us a gift or a helping hand in our time of need. Wouldn’t we prefer it to be in terms of love and respect rather than power and control?

When a gift or favor comes with strings attached, then it becomes a transaction.