Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gift Giving, Why All the Fuss?

My friend Amelia at One Catholic Mama wrote a thought provoking article titled When Gift-Giving is Not Your Love Language. She made some good points about how disconcerting it can be to receive and give gifts when you do not like gifts as a whole. 

I have many thoughts about gifts so instead of leaving a super long response to her post, I thought I would share them here. 

Receiving gifts is not my love language, but I don't mind giving or receiving gifts. What I mind is the attitude I have witnessed lately surrounding gift giving and receiving. 

I love finding something that I think another person will love and giving it to them "just because". I don't think that you can put a price tag on a gift given out of love with the intent to bring joy to a person. Nothing is too cheap or expensive when it is given with true intentions.

But I have found that there is nothing more stressful than feeling pressured to buy a gift or reciprocate a gift of equal or greater value. It feels a little fake doesn't it? 

After all, a gift is a thing given willingly to someone without payment. A few synonyms of the word gift are donation, offering, handout, and freebie. 

It seems like today people have forgotten the without payment part, and more and more I hear about gifts being given unwillingly. I hear people talk about how they have to spend at least $50 on cousin Ida's gift because she always spends that much on them. Or Charlotte with one child always buys Harriet's three children gifts, so Harriet feels obligated to spend more money on Charlotte's daughter to make up for her having two more children to buy gifts for Christmas. Families pick names and set price limits to keep the gift giving manageable, but still they complain about wishing they had drawn Uncle Harry's name instead of Aunt Maude's name. 

All the happiness and excitement appears to have vanished from gift-giving these days. It feels more like an obligation than an act of kindness made out of love and friendship. And it has begun to look more like a business agreement, as an exchange of goods, rather than a selfless act.

Gift giving and receiving should never be stressful. A gift given with a genuine and generous spirit will always be a pleasure to give and receive. 

So the question that arises is how does one stop the madness? 

I always try to have a proper attitude, a genuine smile and kind words of appreciation given to the gift giver. And I strive to give gifts with generosity and no expectations. 

I have tried to teach my boys that when they receive a gift to say thank you with a smile and to think of the time and love that the gift giver put into purchasing or making a gift for them. And to always give a gift for the joy of giving it, not in hopes of getting one back. My hope is that they will always see gifts, given and received, as joy and not a burden.

Do you enjoy giving and receiving gifts? Do you think gift giving has fallen away from what it was originally?


  1. Thanks so much for the blog mention! And you know how I feel about gifts! I think the biggest way to make it less stressful is to remove the obligation of it. My husband and I very rarely give each other gifts. Since we share money, it just seems like giving a gift to yourself. Instead we try to encourage each other to pick out something we want that we wouldn't normally buy around birthdays or holidays. Of course, that only works for us...there are still other famiy members to worry about. But at least gifts aren't really a stressor in our marriage.

    1. Amelia, I totally agree with you. Making gift giving an obligation totally takes the gift right out of it and makes it more like a payment. My friend Kate wrote on the Saint Affairs Facebook page, "Amen! I've been pondering this same thing. How our culture has changed "gift" into "getting what is owed to me". They are not that same, not at all."

  2. This is why I try to be really thoughtful about the gifts I give. I listen to the recipient and try to get something I think they would enjoy based on things they've mentioned. We don't have a set dollar amount either. For example, I am sending a friend a handcrafted present along with another present. Neither were expensive, but they were thoughtful. Like you noted, giving with intention...nothing like it!

    1. Hi Cristina! The whole idea of a set dollar amount implies that either people don't want to exchange gifts but feel like they should or that they are trying to make the gift giving fair. But gift giving is an act of kindness not a group sport. It just doesn't make sense to me. Anyway, I will get off of my soapbox. I am glad that you stopped by!

  3. Sarah, this post is so beautifully written and expresses exactly what I've seen happen even in our extended family culture. It's brought stress during the season which is so sad. We're trying to change things and get rid of the "lists" slowly but surely. The whole obligation thing is also a big one too. And just all of the mess of complicating gift giving has really furthered the loss of reality and focus of the true reason for the season. Sharing this on FB because I ljust love how you articulated this!

    1. Hi Amanda! Thanks for stopping by and leaving such a nice comment. :)
      God bless!

  4. I absolutely agree with this post - I'm hoping we can institute some sort of gift exchange or something for adults in our family, because its getting ridiculous! And it's hard because some members of our family are VERY well off and others aren't, so it's really hard for some to scrape together money for gifts at all!


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