As the gift-giving season approaches, we often get excited to give thoughtful gifts to our loved and dear ones, but now is also a good time to remember to check our heart’s posture when it comes to receiving gifts. Are we approaching the season with a humble, thankful and gracious heart? Or are we coming into it with a selfish, greedy, and entitled heart? The posture of our heart is important because, when it comes down to it, giving and receiving gifts is less about things than it is about relationships.
Cultivate a Gracious Mindset
As adults, we should avoid childish behavior such as acting obviously disappointed, whether it’s our facial expression, body language, words, or tone of voice. We must remember to not dwell on our own dissatisfaction but to think about the person who gave us the gift. Most likely, he or she was thinking of us when searching for or making that “perfect” gift, and the gift was chosen with the best of intentions. We want to show love to that person and not hurt their feelings by acting ungrateful. Our relationship with them is more important than a gift flop.
What if you believe the gift giver didn’t have the best intentions or has a history of buying whatever junk is in the sales bin, without putting much thought into the actual recipient (you or your children)? You should still respond with love, thankfulness, and grace. The giver still used his or her time and money and didn’t have to give you anything. In the rare case that the gift was malicious, continue to be poised and gracious and practice forgiveness, as hard as that may be.
What to Do in the Moment When We Receive Gifts
A simple acknowledgment, smile, and “thank you” are lovely gifts to return to the giver. You don’t need to go overboard with false admiration. Remember, if you’re going into the season with a humble, gracious, and thankful heart, your simple “thank you” will be genuine, even if you don’t care for the gift. You’re thankful for that person and his or her love for you.
If you’re not together in person when you receive the gift, it’s nice to acknowledge it and thank the person immediately with a phone call, video chat, or text.
What to Do Later (With Your Own Gifts)
Some poorly chosen gifts aren’t as big of a deal as others. Most things fall within a gray area, so we have many choices when deciding what to do with these gifts.
- A thank you card is a dying art that shows heartfelt appreciation for that person (if not for the gift itself). It’s special to send one even if you already thanked them in person or over the phone.
- If the gift isn’t entirely offensive, you can choose to keep it and use it, even if you wouldn’t have bought it yourself.
- If you think the gift is nice but “not for you,” you can keep it to give to someone else whom you know would truly love it.
- If you view the gift as horrendous or complete junk, you can sell it or donate it to charity. One person’s junk is another person’s treasure, right?
- If you have the gift receipt, you could also return it and get something you like. However, I personally don’t believe it’s tactful to ask for the receipt. Again, your relationship with that person and their feelings are more important than any object.
What to Do Later (With Your Kid’s Gifts)
If the gift was for your children, and they don’t like it (or if they’re too young to have preferences) then all of the above points apply. However, it can get a little trickier if they like the gift but you don’t.
- You could choose to let the gift run its course. Kids tire of certain toys and outgrow clothes quickly. Once you see it’s no longer used, donate it.
- You can put it in a “special” box of toys that only comes out when you have company. That way there are more choices for other children plus your kid can still have the toy on special occasions.
- Similarly, you can keep the toy at Grandma and Grandpa’s house (or another relative’s). That way, the kids can still have the toy, but it doesn’t need to be in your own home.
- If the gift is completely unacceptable, you may choose to use the opportunity as a teaching moment for your children and explain why you don’t approve of the gift. Sympathize with their emotions but stay firm on your limits. Then donate it or sell it together.
What if the Giver Later Asks About a Returned or Donated Item?
I truly believe most people won’t notice that you never wear or use their gift. If they do notice, they may just brush it off and not say anything. However, if they ask, be honest and transparent with them while also remaining gracious and tactful. You can say something like, “Thanks again for the gift. I genuinely appreciate your loving gesture. After thinking about it, I decided it wasn’t completely my taste (or I didn’t really have a need for it). But I value your thoughtfulness and am grateful.” Remain thankful and keep it simple, genuine, and loving. There’s no need to go on and on about why you didn’t like the gift or what you would rather have received. Hopefully, they will understand and can respect and accept you and your differences.
How to Prevent “Bad” Gifts
Generally, the better that someone knows you, your children, your interests, lifestyle, tastes, sizes, and preferences, the more likely they are to pick out a gift you will like. We change and grow each year, so continue to build the relationship and offer insight into these things. It’s kinder to let them know what you like BEFORE they search for a gift than after they buy or make one.
I remember when I was a kid, we loved to go through the ads and catalogs we received after Thanksgiving and circle and initial the items that we would like. We’d then give them back to our parents and relatives. We never expected to get everything we circled, but it gave our loved ones an idea of our current likes and interests. Our parents also asked us to put together a Christmas list, which they would share with our relatives. In today’s technological, online shopping era, tools such as Amazon Wish Lists or an email with links to various items serve the same purpose. Again, we are not expecting to receive any or all of these items, but it’s helpful to give our close loved ones an idea.
Some of us, however, feel uncomfortable with handing out a list of gift ideas. Alternatively, you can ask for books or experiences (such as a zoo membership or concert tickets) in lieu of physical gifts.
No matter what the outcome, remember to think of others before yourself. Remain grateful and loving, and always receive gifts with grace.