Show love by giving until it heals

This column was originally published as part of my “Looking Homeward” series at

The Christmas season is best defined by one word: love. And love’s finest definition may be “give.”

My father often described three methods of giving.

“Give until it hurts.” This age-old phrase has timeless appeal. If I give “until it hurts,” then the giving does something to me. The pain gives a certain gain.

But the problem with giving “until it hurts” is that many people have a low threshold of pain. It doesn’t take much giving before they feel pain.

Another method is, “Give until it helps.” This approach moves us beyond our pain into a higher level of giving that says, “Hurt or pain, I will not stop giving until it helps.” The real emphasis is on what it will do for others.

However, once the need is met, giving often stops. We assume that there is a point where our giving helped and, therefore, can be halted.

But the third method of giving tugs at the deepest roots of giving and loving, saying, “Give until it heals.”

Christmas was God giving “until it heals.”

The perfect example of such giving is seen at the cross and in the Christ of the cross. He gave until it hurt, until it helped, until it healed.

The bottom line of all giving is to bring healing, the healing of the need we set out to meet. In this process, there is also healing of ourselves — a healing of self-centeredness or self-absorption.

Remember old Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol?” Bitter, selfish, alone and isolated from everyone, he exemplifies what happens when life is not allowed to flow outward.

Then something happened, too long to recall but remembered by most. He had never given until it hurt or helped, but in that inner struggle with the spirit of Christmas, he was moved to start giving.

And as he gave of himself and his resources, he found healing that both blessed others around him as well as brought health to himself.

As the holidays usher in the season of love and giving, our minds are often filled with memories of loved ones lost and lives forever changed. Whether the grief is fresh or from a football field 36 years ago as the film “We Are Marshall,” depicts, life after loss is riddled with uncertainties.

Daily and in the years ahead, we sort out what we keep and what we let go, what we cherish and what we forget, what we honor and what we lay to rest.

We can redefine who we are as a family, a community and as a body of faith by not only what we have loved and lost, but what we have chosen to take with us.

And we love and give — until it hurts, until it helps, until it heals.

May the warmth and love of Christmas fill our hearts and minds as we let our love flow outward, reinvesting our energies with the best we have experienced as we celebrate this season of giving.