Out of Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages, GIFTS is probably my least important. I admire my friends and family members who easily assess another person’s needs and passions and cheerfully share their resources. Don’t get me wrong—receiving a well thought out gift warms my heart, and I can be generous when I see a need, but choosing the right gift for someone (especially at Christmas) feels more like a chore, fraught with emotional baggage. In fact, many years ago I relinquished this task to my husband who happens to enjoy the process. It’s his gift to me that meets my primary love language: Acts of Service.
Here’s what goes on in my head when I give a gift:
- How many stores do I have to visit?*
- I can’t decide what to get.
- What can I afford?
- What if they don’t like it?
- Is this just adding to their clutter?
- Do they really need it?
- Will they be disappointed with my choice?
- Could this resource be used better elsewhere?
Or when I’m given a gift:
- How do I receive it graciously if I don’t care for it?
- Am I expressing enough gratitude if I do?
- Is reciprocation expected?
I’ve asked for the same thing (nothing!) for Christmas for the past umpteen years, but no one will listen. At the very least, I like things that get used up and don’t clutter my space, and I’d rather use those resources for someone in need. My favorite was when a daughter gave the gift of a goat in my name to a needy boy in Africa.
I’ve come to realize, however, that my dismissal of others’ gifts robs them of the joy of giving. Just because I feel angst over the process does not mean they do. I’ve also learned to follow my mother’s model of expectation: “Let me have the pleasure of giving this to you. What you do with it does not concern me. It’s yours to do with as you wish. This frees you from of the guilt of tossing or regifting.”
And so, I began the year by working through my emotions and false beliefs over this subject. Next, I set a monetary goal for how much I would spend this year in gift-giving. I’m not a shopper, but if I saw an item that might interest a friend or family member, I made the purchase and then gave it at a random time. I found more pleasure in this exercise than the obligatory birthday and Christmas events.
At first I kept a record of my gifts, but midway through the year, I began to lose interest in the tally and forgot about it. I’d met my goal, but I didn’t need to stop the habit of trying to make people smile.
And then Christmas 2022 happened. With no more triggers holding me back, I delighted in each gift received, and I’m already thinking about what to give next year!
What’s your least important love language and why?
*I think the greatest invention is the Wish List on Amazon. Even I can pull that one off without too much effort!