Buying Gifts

'Tis the season of buying stuff and giving it a way. I've always had a really hard time choosing gifts for someone. It's at times been a source of some frustration, because I've felt that it needs to be something good. Something they want and need, and will actually be grateful for.

I myself hated to receive gifts. Putting on that fake smile and saying thank you for something I never wanted, and then feeling that I had to keep the thing forever because it was a gift. It's only in the past few years that I've learned that it's not really about the gift, and it's not really about what the recipient wants or needs.

When you buy a gift for someone, then buy something that you would like to give them. Often times it's nigh impossible to know what someone would be happy to get. That's a high bar to set. But buying something that you feel good giving to them is easier. Put some thought into it. Not "what would this person want" or "what do I think they should have" but "what would I enjoy giving this person?"

Maybe you misjudge and the recipient doesn't want the thing. That's okay. Give them the receipt so they can return it and tell them to do what they want with the money instead. Their feelings about the gift are completely separated from their feelings about you. You haven't failed at getting them a "good" gift; you did your best and it really is the thought that counts.

And with that sentence we segue to receiving gifts. No more fake smile and polite thank you, because it's not about the gift itself. Be grateful, because this person values you. That's what the gift means. That's what you thank them for. When you unwrap it you get to savour the tension, and then reveal a surprise that gives insight into what this person thinks of when they think of you. Or maybe what they think about buying gifts. Either way you don't have to feel bad about hating the thing. Maybe don't tell it to their face until enough time has passed that you can both laugh about it. But don't feel obliged to keep it either. It's yours to do as you please with.

This is what I have learned that has turned gift giving from painful obligatory shopping and awkward unwrappings to acts of joy and love. Mind you it's something I still practice, but when I get into the mindset I really enjoy it.

-- CC0 Björn Wärmedal