To give or to get?

Rachel McDonald

Nearly everyone remembers when they were younger writing letters to Santa that included lists all the gifts they were hoping to see under the tree on Christmas morning.

Now that we are older and we are not wishing for as many toys, many of us find more joy in giving meaningful gifts to others. Gift giving gives us a sense of satisfaction that we made someone else feel special and made them happy. Gifts have the potential to serve as a symbol of admiration and appreciation for someone else, ultimately having more meaning than just an object.

When I was younger, I remember receiving a study Bible from my mother for Christmas. Prior, I had been using the same childhood story Bible, and I was ready to finally have an adult Bible. She had written a long and meaningful note to me on the inside cover that even now, I still look at every time I open my Bible. She also included special verses for me inside. This Bible is not just a book to me, it is something that every time I use, I think of my mother.

Often gifts do not have to be bought to have meaning, they can even be handmade. One Christmas my grandmother hand knitted a huge afghan blanket for me. The blanket was so colorful and filled with yarn that she had even used when she knitted some of the baby blankets she made for my mother when I was first born. This blanket has a lot of meaning to me because it is something my grandmother spent hours upon hours on and holds a lot of family history too. The blanket is heavy and warm, so I normally use it whenever I am sick and have a fever. The afghan blanket always brings me comfort and I love how it reminds me of my grandmother.

Giving gifts essentially meets all five basic human needs. Psychologist Abraham Harold Maslow presented the concept of every human having a hierarchy of needs, with physiological being at the bottom, safety and belonging following, and esteem and self-actualization at the top. By giving others gifts, feelings of acceptance socially and emotionally, which leads to us having better self-esteems. Self-esteem is the confidence in one’s own worth; so by presenting our families, friends, and colleagues with gifts, can better about our own worth.

Aside from personal advantages, gift giving gives us the opportunity to bless others with what we are blessed with. Many of us have so much we take for granted, so it is only fair for us to acknowledge the difference between “wants” and “needs”, and what “wants” we could possibly put on hold so that we are able to give to others. Gift giving is a physical sacrifice to put others before ourselves as we are able to instead put our money or effort towards someone else instead of a selfish desire of our own. When we are able to redirect our effort, time, and wealth, we have the ability to bless others.

Gifts do not have to be luxurious and expensive to have meaning. Arguably the worst mistake when giving gifts is throwing a bunch of money down and then causing the recipient to feel indebted. Gifts are a tokens of appreciation, so they only have as much meaning as what they represent. Personalization and thoughtfulness are what truly matter when gift giving. When a gift is meaningful, the recipient will feel special and valued.

Gift giving is one of the Five Love Languages along with words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and physical touch. The unique attribute of gift giving is that it can be paired with other love languages considering gifts do not have to be physical items. Gifts can be sacrificing time to spend time with someone to make them feel appreciated. Love languages do not have to be out a romantic context; love languages are how individuals receive and express appreciation. Gift giving is a vital way for us to show love to those in our lives.

If we want to feel special, we have to make others feel special first.