How to receive a gift

Gift-giving can be tough business. But often, receiving gifts is even more difficult. And some of us are downright terrible at it.

Recently, my 15-year-old daughter gave her friend a $15 gift card to the local movie theater as a birthday gift, since the two of them have enjoyed going to see movies together. Not only did the gift reflect an aspect of their friendship, the money spent was a stretch for my daughter who has little money to spend on herself.

Two days later, the friend said to her, “Your gift was pretty much pointless. It’s not enough to go to two movies with.”

Ladies and gentlemen, that is not how to receive a gift.

The best reason to give a gift is love for the receiver. Obviously, there are times when gifts are obligatory and that’s OK. You don’t always have to feel it in order to do it. Sometimes, we do it in order to feel it. Giving gifts is love in action, no matter how small or large the gifts are.

A friend of mine said something regrettable to a co-worker while they were loading trucks for UPS. The other guy was intent on beating him up, but my friend escaped without physical confrontation. So, what did he do when he had to face the co-worker the next evening? He gave him a big bottle of Gatorade, the drink of choice among the UPS workers. That simple gift was enough to turn away anger and create a friend. Gifts don’t have to be big and you don’t have to want to give them, but they do need to be somewhat thoughtful and appropriate for the person.

Receiving gifts is tougher business.

Giving gifts you don’t want to give can be rough, but receiving gifts you don’t want is even rougher.

First of all, there are unmet expectations. When my son is expecting a football and opens up a pair of socks, his expectations are unmet and he’s disappointed.

Then there are gifts that don’t match who we are. When I my family got my car detailed as a gift to me years ago, my heart sank at the thought of how much it cost and where else I would have spent the money. Acts of service is the lowest of the five love languages when it comes to me, so having my car professionally cleaned totally missed the mark.

Then there are gifts we think are beneath us. This might include a gift card for less money than we believe we ought to receive. This might also include a gift that I don’t feel matches a gift that I’d given to the same person — less time, effort, and/or money involved.

Then there are times when we feel manipulated by gifts, whether that was the intention of the giver or not. This might include a too-large gift that overwhelms.

There are times when a gift doesn’t seem like a gift. This might include giving your husband garden tools in order to get him to do more garden work. Or him buying her lingerie …

And so on. There are lots of reasons why we balk at gifts. Lots.

But here’s the thing: As complicated as our feelings are when we receive gifts, there is really only one response to receiving a gift. Love for the giver.

We are lame gift givers. We often give what we’d like to receive. But a gift given is a gift given. It’s a hand extended toward us, and so we take the hand and say, “Thank you.” We offer our hearts back.

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