The Gift I Hope Everyone Gives This Year

hand giving a christmas gift. one more present I hope you will give to everyone on your list.
Image by Ginta Pūķe from Pixabay

Gift giving is part of the holiday season, and finding “the perfect present” is a common pursuit. It feels good when the items we’ve selected are appreciated and enjoyed. However, this year, regardless of what you’ve bought, ordered or made, there is one more present I hope you will give to everyone on your list: permission to do whatever they like with the gifts you are giving.

Let me explain.

The commonly held definition of a gift is something that one party gives to another. In other words, when we give a gift, we are relinquishing ownership and control, and transferring that ownership to someone else. Even though we may have put a lot of thought into selecting the item, spent a lot of money, or even passed on something we deem precious, we need to remember that we are giving a gift, not a loan.

One of the kindest and most generous gifts you can give is the message that while you hope that the gift is a hit, you completely understand if it isn’t. Furthermore, the recipient should feel free to keep it, use it, display it, or sell it, return it, re-gift it, or pass it on as he or she sees fit.

In spite of our best efforts, there will likely be times when our chosen gifts simply miss the mark, such as when we get…

  • the wrong size
  • something the recipient already owns
  • the wrong style, color or flavor
  • an item not to the receiver’s taste

True generosity resists the urge to layer the gift with expectations for its future use. We shouldn’t expect a decorative object to be on display every time we come for a visit, or to find children playing with the toy we gave. We shouldn’t suggest the teenager wear the shirt we picked out, or inquire as to the location of the antique we passed down.

A gift is simply that –a gift. If we have specific expectations regarding an item’s use, we shouldn’t give it to someone else. Rationalizations such as “I’m giving this to them so it will stay in the family,” or, “She would look more professional if she would wear this” are more mandates than offerings, and may result in guilt and friction rather than joy.

The season of giving is an opportunity to bless those you care most about. I hope you will enhance your gift giving this year by letting your friends and family know that your presents come with “no strings attached.”

Have you ever received an item you didn’t really like but felt too guilty to let it go?

28 thoughts on “The Gift I Hope Everyone Gives This Year”

    1. Thank you so much, Diane. We all work with people who have difficulty letting go because of the expectations of others… I had this thought over the summer and decided to tuck it away and make it a post for this time of year. Wishing YOU a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

    1. It is hard, especially when we are trying hard to get the perfect gift. At the same time, we’ve all worked with people who literally hold onto boxes of items because they were given to them with expectations attached. It isn’t easy, but ultimately we want our recipients to be happy, not burdened.

      1. I just had a flashback to when I was a teenager. My mom would buy me clothes for Christmas and say it could be exchanged if I didn’t like it. I never wanted to hurt her feelings, so even if I didn’t like something, I kept it and wore it a few times. Then one time she bought me a dress I didn’t like, so I bravely told her, and that time she’d got it on final sale. I felt so bad, but now I realize that probably means she didn’t pay a lot for it, so I guess it was okay. 🙂
        Janet Barclay recently posted…Making Lists – Professional Organizers Blog CarnivalMy Profile

        1. How nice of your Mom to tell you that you could exchange it! Figures the one time you summoned the courage it couldn’t be returned… ugh. Although the recipients of our gifts might not actually exchange the items we’ve given, by offering that “permission” we may ultimately make it easier for them to let go of something they never truly liked. After all, we buy gifts to make them feel happy, not guilty.

  1. This is such a beautiful addition to gift giving. So many of us feel guilt if a gift received is one that we really don’t want, can’t use, doesn’t fit, or other many other reasons. And what often happens with that guilt is that we KEEP that thing that we don’t want. Instead of us feeling good about the gift, which is the givers intention, we end up with pangs…and possibly a lot more clutter. So how generous to offer the “no strings attached” to all gifts that we give. How freeing and generous.
    Linda Samuels recently posted…12 Best, Most Inspired Conversations of the YearMy Profile

    1. I’m sure we all run into clients with that pang… struggling with that feeling of guilt, which then (as you point out) results in keeping items which aren’t wanted. This is such a shame, because everyone ends up feeling badly, and the item ends up in disuse. Giving the, “feel free to keep this or let it go,” along with the gift itself, may be just enough to make a recipient let go if it isn’t something he will enjoy using. After all, generosity is what gift-giving is really all about. I love that you added that word!

    1. Thanks so much for sharing, Sabrina. Perhaps if we can get others to provide this “permission” it will make the decluttering on the back end a little bit easier:)

    1. It takes a little bit of effort to relay this message, and it may not be one we want to give. But it is a generous thing to do. I know we have experienced what happens on the back end when people keep things because they are riddled with guilt.

  2. Wow! What a way to relieve stress, lessen anxiety and make gift giving meaningful! When we give a gift, it’s got loads of expectations for the giver and giftee. This post hits home!

    1. A great reminder to myself, as well as a thought for others. I’ve been guilty of expecting to see my gifts in use, but now I’ve spent so much time helping people shed these unwanted gifts that I am starting to think differently. Merry Christmas, Ellen!

    1. I think the guilt can originate with either one. Sometimes the giver suggests this “must be saved” or is “extra special to the family,” other times it is the recipient who feels disloyal by letting go of a gift. Both are not helpful perspectives.

  3. A good reminder. How many times have we gone into client’s homes to help them declutter and find that they have difficulty getting rid of an item because someone they cared about gave it to them. Even if that object has been boxed up for years, they are reluctant to let it go.
    I personally received a $10 gift card to a food place the other day that I never go to. I thanked the person for their thoughtfulness and 2 days later gave the card to someone who will use and enjoy it.
    Jonda Beattie recently posted…7 Tips to Help You Enjoy the SeasonMy Profile

    1. That was so smart, Jonda. I tell clients that few people would be happy to know that their gift recipient cringes whenever they look at a gift they had given. Just let people know you tried, but if it doesn’t suit, to please feel free to pass it on!

  4. I’m good at the not-feeling-guilty part. Whatever someone gets me, I write a thank you note (as my mother taught me when I was five) and I show appreciation, but after that, if it’s not a great fit for me, I exchange or appropriately regift it. And I *thought* was good at gifting without strings; I don’t needle people to make sure they enjoyed their gifts (though, if I don’t hear anything, I do cringe over whether I should check to make sure they got it). But I have one person in my life who never seems excited about anything anyone gives them, even things that are exactly what they’ve requested. So I’ve come to realize that I need to let go of the “string” of expecting that person must enjoy the gift in a way that I can recognize as enjoyment. We’ve all got our path, eh?
    Julie Bestry recently posted…Paper Doll’s Holiday Gift List: Education, Entertainment, and AdventureMy Profile

    1. I think it is only natural for us to want our gift recipient to enjoy our gift, especially if we are the kind of people who really try to get the right gift. However, as you point out, some people are simply “unpleasable.” For them, we do our best, and then let it go!

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