This holiday season, you can finally be free from the stress of gift giving and receiving by recognizing what’s inside your gifts. I’m not talking about stuff, I’m talking about the motives and the meaning. This year give gifts that set you free, and don’t be bound or bind others with dark motives… like these:
Gifts of Guilt
I feel bad not getting him something.
These gifts absolve the giver by releasing a burden of guilt either for wrongs done to the recipient in the past, or simply by preventing a guilty, selfish feeling. These gifts create immediate suspicion, bringing “regift” to mind, or make one feel like the word “really?” might come slipping out at any moment. Or if the recipient is really unlucky, it’s expensive as well, and may combined with…
Gifts of Debt
Just remember how much I gave you, son. I mean… how much I love you.
There’s nothing quite like hiding a bill in the bottom of a gift. It’s like those books book-clubs used to send that included a bill. You could hold that sweet dust-jacketed morsel in your hands, but if you don’t return in it 3 days, you pay the exorbitant price. These gifts can exceed the normal price range or take hours to craft or orchestrate. Behind the lavish exterior can lurk the dark hook of favor-debt. Gifts of debt may be enjoyed now, but they’ll come back around and force the recipient later to give something they’re unwilling or unprepared to give, relying on guilt to drag the victim along.
Gifts of Vice
You know how much she likes wine (wink wink).
Have you ever wondered how some people seem to live a perfect life? They don’t. It takes true friendship and true compassion to understand someone’s vices, which may be hidden behind denial or ignorance. Do the people you love a favor and don’t feed in to their vices, but have the courage to get them something that will strengthen their soul. If drawing your child from video games is like pulling magneto away from the statue of liberty, the latest gaming system might be a useful childcare strategy, but will only deepen the addiction. I’m not suggesting we all get each other gym memberships, but maybe we can think beyond the gift-basket?
Gifts of Formality
Yes, well Merry Christmas… and all that.
You might as well just wrap an empty box, because that’s how much meaning is inside. These gifts are emotionless version of the gifts of guilt, and if it has reached this point, you might as well just cancel the gift giving.
Gifts that set you Free
This holiday season, you have a chance to be free. It’s hard to make yourself have a reason for something when you don’t, but don’t give in to the lie that your stuck with your gut feelings. I don’t have a solution for ridding yourself of any other motive, but I know a type of gift you can give everyone that is superior in every way, and just might have the power to replace your mixed bag of motives.
What it’s not
A Gift of Freedom is not a free gift. It costs you something, but you pay it gladly because it’s worth it. This gift does not put you in financial debt, it’s not designed to elevate your position or social status, it does not lead the recipient deeper into addition, and it’s not obligation – it’s an act of selflessness designed to remind us of our humanity, that we can’t take our stuff with us when we die and our relationship to one another is vital to life.
What it is
A gift of freedom is something you buy for someone because you want to and don’t expect anything in return. It’s when the recipient says “Thank you so much,” and you say “you’re welcome,” with no qualifiers or misleading inflections. It’s the gift that is entirely like a child sharing an ice cream cone with another child. You give them something that could be yours, but instead you want to share it just because you want to see them enjoy it and know you caused the joy. Your money, your time and effort, your love, put to good use.
The Gift in the Manger
The story of the birth of Jesus is a pinnacle part of Christian tradition and the original Christmas meaning. Why? Because it’s an example of the ultimate gift meant to exemplify love. In most Christian theology, Jesus is God incarnate, given to the human race as a gift. The life he lived has impacted billions throughout history, and religious views aside, historians recognize him as one of, if not the most, influential person in history. His gift changed our world forever. It was because he wanted to share the best thing he had to offer – a relationship with himself.
We’ve strayed from this original message of Christmas, but that doesn’t mean you should give up and join the consumer frenzy. You don’t have to be a Christian to recognize how lame the holidays can become when you’re unpacking all kinds of nonsense with your Christmas gifts. Do your best to give gifts of freedom by identifying the pitfalls and embracing the joy of sharing your money and stuff.