Receiving a Gift

Now we can look at how we receive a gift.  Again, here is my take on it:

A Gift Truly Received

A Corollary to The Gift Freely Given

Daniel R. Vertrees

© 2014

Most of us were raised with the expectation of some form of proper etiquette regarding the response to a gift.   A “thank-you” in person with a follow-up “thank-you” note at a later (but not too much later) date.  We are imbued with the automatic obligation attached through tradition to receiving a gift.  It is just plain “good manners” to thank someone for a gift, a stipulation of receipt, a validation of the magnanimous nature of the giver.

Aunt Millie would give and then expect acknowledgement.  Sometimes the message was, “if you do not thank Aunt Millie, she will not send you anymore gifts.”  Therefore, we are bound in our own strings that we place on gifts. If a gift is freely given, the sender will not expect or demand even a thank you.  The gift comes with no strings.

It seems an impossible task for many of us.  We have to figure out how much the gift cost so we can match it in return.  We have to figure out that if we are invited to a four-course meal that we must reciprocate with at least five courses.   If we work under the assumption that the gift is given freely why do we struggle with the concept of having a simple acceptance of that gift.

We respond in such strange ways.  “Oh you shouldn’t have,” we say.  What is it that they shouldn’t have done?  Given you anything because you are unworthy?  Do you believe that or is it some convoluted, perhaps false, modesty.  Perhaps they shouldn’t have given you anything as tacky as that. Well, somehow they thought it was appropriate for you!

The most tragic, in my opinion is to follow the “you shouldn’t have” with the decline of the gift.  “You shouldn’t have – I just can’t accept a gift for the paltry thing I have done.”  The giver may hear that the gift is unworthy, or inappropriate, or that no matter what they give it is insufficient, or that you allow little worth to the person making the gift.  It also moves the recipient into a superior place of power – “I don’t need the gift, and I will choose what gift is appropriate for me.”

I saw an advertisement this fall that was a metaphor of our social mores.  A woman asked a young girl how it was that her Dad always seemed to get the right gift for her Mother.  The girl responded, “Mom goes to (name of store) and puts what she wants on layaway; then Dad pays for it, wraps it and gives it to her.  That way everyone is happy.”

I guess we have evolved past the gift-as-thought stage and are deeply embedded in the gift-as-appropriate-possession stage.  Even the church is compelled to send out an accounting of all the ways our gifts are accounted for.

What to do?

Perhaps just say a simple “Thank You”.

Consider:  the parable of the Widow’s mite is not so much about “cheerful giver giving all she had” (guilt, guilt – you hold back on your gift), but it is about a gift that holds no bond of obligation, freely given to the depth of her wish to honor the recipient.

“Go and sin no more” is not an obligation; it is a release, given freely, in reconciliation and love, accepted without a word.

Put that on layaway.


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