Sharing is good. Gifts are better; giving away is best. Most children have inherent generosity. Toddlers are more than happy to relinquish whatever drool-covered object is in their hands. But to give anything away, they must own it first.
Teaching a child something is theirs must come before true giving. Too often one sees a well-intended but aggressive parent who in the name of munificence steals from one child to give to another. This is not sharing but an act of someone bigger and stronger taking from someone smaller and weaker to redistribute wealth, often so they will look generous themselves.
There are also people with exaggerated internal tension who use objects to calm themselves. Everyone knows a child who has a favorite blanket or stuffed animal. These youngsters have a special silky corner that only they can sniff out, or their animal has been through so many washings its survival is in question every time the spin cycle comes on. Charles Schultz's Linus was known for his superficial burns from grabbing his blanket too soon from the hot dryer.
One can imagine for this group of up-regulated kids that giving up their pacifier would be more painful than someone else merely handing over a spare toy car or a stiff play doll that does not have emotional magnetism. It is charity, not just sharing, when the person sacrifices by their gift.
Donating items of security to another is a higher level of commitment than just the transfer of property from one pocket to another. It is like handing over a bulletproof vest in the midst of a gun battle. Giving until it hurts is not just dollars but the courageous relinquishing of tangible objects of strength to another.
However, giving away insecurities is best. No one can take away another person's feelings of inadequacy. It is not like a parent grabbing a surplus plaything and handing it to another. Deeply rooted worries are privately owned. Individuals are the sole proprietors of their inferior mindset. Long-held lies of worthlessness or half-truths of failure are birthed and nurtured from childhood. Distressed thoughts have been internalized for so long and so deep their creator-owner begins to think doubts are as necessary as bones to keep them upright and walking. Insecurities deceive many into believing personal falsehoods; fears are the muscles that move people away from confidence or the nerves that paralyze success. Failures are so ingrained mentally that some believe if their ineptness were to disappear there would be nothing left of their soul. The last thing they would give up would be their attachment of insecurity.
A feature of avoidant insecurity is a difficulty to seek help in times of need. Growing up in the emotional vacuum of distracted or distanced parents, do-it-yourself management of tension is repeatedly learned by the absence of a loving guardian. When the hormones of tension elevate, a child looks around and no one is there. Once they become adults, they do not know how to ask for assistance or share burdens during crises. As grownups, they miss the tranquilizers of thumbs, blankets and terry-cloth dogs.
All major religions have a redemptive clause. From the scapegoat to the sacrificial lamb to a human God redeemer, there is a ready-made means to give up inadequacy. The word "weakness" or even "sin" is used; besides, instinctive fears from avoidance or learned loneliness may not fit in the lexicon of religion, but insecurities come to all of us through the pathological learning of tension-regulation. Only when someone gives away his or her insecurities will there ever be personal peace.
So in this season of giving, if you have a choice, keep the fruitcake and give away your insecurities. Give them away to a greater power who would love to have those dry, bad-tasting, ill-fitting, color-clashing, needs-batteries, broken-quickly feelings of insecurity.
Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing pediatrician for more than 25 years and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah. He can be reached at [email protected]