When is a gift not a gift?
To give or to … bribe!
With all the talk of the Elf on the Shelf, and the seasonal question posed to children “Have you been a good boy/girl?”, there is a lot of pressure on little ones at this time of year. Yet, strangely, the season is called the Season of Giving!
The aim of any good gift should be to help a young person be good, either at their sport - e.g. a new ball - or their hobby - e.g. a new camera - or even their appearance - e.g. new clothes. In the case of older people it may include helping us be better at our work. Yet we sometimes pressurise children to behave well BEFORE they get the gift, and threaten to withdraw the loving gift if the are ‘bold’!
In Proverbs 21:14 there is a clear suggestion that well placed gifts, if we can call them that, are useful to influence behaviour; not quite a bribe, but certainly a strong incentive.
“A gift given in secret soothes anger,
and a bribe concealed in the cloak pacifies great wrath.”
Subtlety is occasionally lost in the face of scrutiny by today’s expert analysts; a gentle encouragement is portrayed as downright dishonest, and any sweetener is seen as corrupt. Yet a gift given discretely has the potential to help people down from their high horses and open them up to new ways of looking at situations. Such a new perspective can release whole communities to move forward together.
One of the (many) problems with political life in these islands is that overtures presented with a level of compromise are seen as weaknesses rather than the strengths they really are, and when the accusations are levelled, everyone moves back to entrenchment instead of forward to progress.
A few subtle gifts can go a long way to moving forwards, and lowering the temperature of the past.