The Best Gifts

Some people have the “gift” of gift-giving. They have a knack for knowing what will make someone happy and finding it. They never get tired of hearing, “It’s perfect! How did you know I wanted that?” Most of us aren’t quite that gifted, so we turn to other people or even the Internet for ideas.

A recent browse on the GiftAdvisor.com website revealed hundreds of ideas. For example, the plant-lovers in your life might like the Avocado Tree Starter Kit or the Redwood Bonsai Forest. Campers would appreciate the Jerky of the Month Club and your favorite thrill-seekers would be ecstatic to receive the Shotgun Ride-Along in a Stock Car. Your Irish friends might like to own a tiny plot in their homeland for only $29.99 and for those who appreciate the finer things in life you can buy a membership to the Lobster of the Month Club – but be aware that you can buy 11 acres of land on Mars for about the same price!

At this highly consumer-driven time of year, I would encourage us all to focus less on the material gift we give or receive, and more on the context of the relationship in which the gift is given.

Here are some simple principles to consider when gift-giving this Christmas:

The giver is more valuable than the gift.

The holidays tend to bring out the best and the worst in relationships, but nothing changes the fact that people are more important than things. The price tag on a gift isn’t the most accurate measure of the value of a friend or family member.

The effort it took to make, find or purchase the gift adds significant value to it.

There is nothing wrong with someone shopping online to avoid the hassle of holiday traffic or to find the perfect gift, but if you receive a handmade gift or a hard-to-find item, be sure to acknowledge the time and effort the giver put into getting it for you. As the old saying goes, “the journey is part of the gift.”

A gift given freely and without obligation is the best kind.

Every family creates their own traditions about gift exchanges, but as much as possible, avoid obligations to give that may cause financial hardship or resentment in the relationship. On the flip side, cultivating an expectation that we value one another enough to sacrifice some time and money for gifts can be a way to help children or young adults learn generosity and selflessness. A gift that expresses love from the giver to the recipient is something to be cherished!

Once a gift is given, it belongs to the receiver, no strings attached.

A gift should never be given for the purpose of getting something in return or to manipulate someone. That would make it a bribe or a debt to be repaid. It should not come with strings attached to pull it back. One reasonable exception to this principle is a parent giving a gift to a child or teenager that requires maturity, like a cell phone. A child’s first phone represents a “grown up” privilege that can be suspended or lost if used irresponsibly. That is very different from giving a large gift in order to obligate someone to match the extravagance or be somehow indebted to the giver. Parental discipline is an act of love, but manipulation spoils the gift and the relationship.

It is a joy to give and a blessing to receive. Enjoy both!

When you give with joy and generosity, even ordinary days can feel like a holiday. When you can receive with grace and gratitude, you will never run out of the holiday spirit. The best things in life aren’t “things” – they are the people, places and opportunities God gives you to enjoy all year long.

Thank you! Whatever you are celebrating, we wish you joyous, prosperous and healthy holidays!

Here at Relational Advantage, Inc. we are so grateful for the patients, clients and friends that give us the opportunity to serve you all year long through our Counseling, Coaching, Training and Speaking services. Thank you for your confidence and your referrals – we consider them the best gifts!

Live, Work & Relate Well!

Dr. Todd

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