Updated: Dec 13, 2020
It's the day before Thanksgiving, so gratitude messages are high as we reflect on what we are grateful for and share food with family and friends. Fast-forward several hours and the mood will be very different as thoughts and conversations turn to gift buying and gift giving.
As someone who spends their days helping people dig through boxes and boxes of their stuff, the season of giving often gives me pause.
According to dictionary.com, a gift is something given voluntarily without payment in return, as to show favor toward someone, honor an occasion or make a gesture of assistance. So, if a gift is something given voluntarily without payment in return, you'd think gift-giving is a no-strings-attached proposition. Sadly, I've seen different.
I have watched well-reasoning, well-educated adults become paralyzed when looking at an old gift from a relative or friend. When my clients are stuck making decision on whether they should keep or discard an item, I ask them to tell me the origination story along with questions like "Do you love it?" or "Does it bring you joy?" to get their minds moving toward decision. When the response is "it was a gift", some of the most common answers I get are "No, I don't like it, but I should keep it because it was a gift from so-and-so" or "So-and-so would be hurt if I didn't keep it and even "I'll get rid of it when so-and-so dies". Wow?!?
What I see from their facial expressions and body language tells a clearer picture - they are holding something they don't want to keep and doesn't bring them joy. I say this because if they were holding a gift their hearts treasured, their face would light up and the decision to keep it would be made quickly.
I'm sharing this perspective simply to give a view of the burden that can sometimes be left during the gift-giving season.
For those who lay the guilt trip onto others, it might be time to reflect on why you're giving gifts. It would also be gracious for you to proactively share with others that it is OK to return or exchange your gift or to pass it along to someone else if there isn't a perfect match. This releases them from any feelings of guilt they might have as you are talking about it in the open.
And, if you're someone who is keeping closets filled with unwanted gifts, let this holiday season be the one where you feel empowered to make the decisions from your heart and not out of guilt.
My hope is that we all get to spend time with our most precious gift of all - our beloved family and friends during this holiday season. For it is the memories we create with those family and friends that we will most remember as we grow old rather than the things they gave us wrapped in pretty paper.