Accepting gifts graciously can be difficult. “Oh, thank you…but I didn’t get you anything!” How often has that awkward response ruined a nice giving moment? We are wired for reciprocity. It’s hard to accept a gift without feeling the need to give one back.
For a long time I struggled with this. Sometimes I didn’t give gifts that I wanted to, because I was afraid of imposing an obligation with my gift! How silly. It took time to realize not everyone thinks the same way. Some people can accept a gift graciously. I learned that when someone has the desire to say Thank You, Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas, or Happy Arbor Day with a gift, a little gratitude is all that’s needed to make the kind gesture complete.
The Best Gifts
The best gifts, in fact, might not even arrive in a package. A few years ago, I wanted to give my Toastmasters group a gift, a final thank-you speech, to express in 10 minutes how the program and its members changed my life. The response to my going-away speech was overwhelming – appreciative tears all around. I gave a gift; and immediately, unexpectedly, got 30 gifts back. In my past, I would have said, “Thanks, but I wasn’t THAT good,” or found a way to deflect the praise. Not very gracious.
Instead, I soaked it up with as much grace, courage, and humility as I could muster. Because I allowed that to happen, the exchange felt complete. I left the speech on an emotional high, and I hope everyone else did, too.
If I am moved to be the generous gift-giver, I check in – am I doing so without expectations, out of the goodness of my heart? There’s a saying that I bear in mind, “Expectations are premeditated resentments.”
On the other hand, if I am overwhelmed with someone else’s generosity – intangible, tangible, or financial – how will I handle it? How often can we graciously accept, honor the giver’s gesture, and allow the exchange to be complete, especially when it feels like a lot?
With so many messages about self-determination, independence, and not “needing” others in our lives to get by, it can be easy to forget how gift exchanges weave the fabric of our support networks – friends, colleagues, community and family – together. Handled well, exchanging grows and beautifies the fabric. When not handled so well, or not happening at all, the fabric rips or shrinks.
How Will You Handle Gifts?
Consider what giving and receiving this season will do for you and for those around you. With a plan for handling both sides of giving, we have the potential to enter 2021 with relationships that feel a little more rich and beautiful. Those are the best gifts of all.