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More Than A Gift

I love the act of gift giving, but I don’t like the phraseology many people use when looking for a gift to give.

So often you’ll hear someone say “I have to buy someone a gift.”

Have to?! This makes the act of gift giving a burden, and the last time I checked, burdens are no fun.

The point of giving a gift is to celebrate the recipient and to show your appreciation for their presence in your life. The people in our lives aren’t the plasticky disposable items that seem to endlessly line our store shelves. The people in our lives enrich us, make us better human beings, love us when we’re sad, nurse us back to health in sickness and celebrate life’s milestones with us.

They do this all without the expectation of remuneration. This is why you show these people how much you care by giving them a gift as a symbol of appreciation -- not because you “had to.”

I feel really good after I give a gift, especially to my wife Tanya. It’s a really cool high, but it also comes with a little bit of what I call gift-stressing.

I care so much about her that I wonder if she’ll see how much I care -- all of the thought, stress, anxiety, and excitement that went into finding what I think is the perfect gift to convey my love and appreciation.

And as it turns out, I’m not the only gift-stressor in the world. There’s actually been research done on the act of gift giving and the stress it often creates. Look at this quote from a New York Times article on the act of giving a gift:  

Gift giving has long been a favorite subject for studies on human behavior, with psychologists, anthropologists, economists, and marketers all weighing in. They have found that giving gifts is a surprisingly complex and important part of human interaction, helping to define relationships and strengthen bonds with family and friends. Indeed, psychologists say it is often the giver, rather than the recipient, who reaps the biggest psychological gains from a gift”.  

I love this passage. Gift giving does define relationships, and it does strengthen bonds.

In this light, you see that gift-giving is actually a two-way exchange, not a singular act experienced by one person. Maybe this is why some people find it to be a’s difficult to find the perfect gift. I may be a little partial when it comes to helping people find the perfect gift, but it appears that the struggle to find the perfect gift is a very real phenomenon.

When Psychology Today dug into the act of giving a gift, they highlighted a number of reasons as to why it’s so darn difficult. Family traditions, expectations, and acceptance are several of the root causes.

Understanding why giving a gift can be difficult may actually make it easier for you to shop for one in the future. If you struggle with gift giving, consider this paragraph from the Psychology Today piece:

“Understanding these dynamics does not mean giving up on the search for a great gift; but it does mean accepting the possibility that there is no such thing as a perfect one! Perfection, we are told by the sages, is not something human beings can actually achieve. British psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott actually tells us that “good enough” parents create healthier and happier children than “perfect” ones would. Maybe the same is true of gift-giving.”

If you read between the lines, Winnicott is really saying that when gifting, it’s the thought that counts.

That’s my take away and it’s how I feel. My value system is not rooted in material objects, but in the relationships I have. Those closest to me know this. So when they do receive a gift from me, they understand that they mean more to me than any physical object ever could. Understanding this, they instinctively know that when I give them a gift, maximum effort was made in its selection.

And maybe that’s the real point here. Work every day to tell the people you care about just how much you care. This simple act will amplify any gift you give.

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