When Consideration Goes Awry, Delight in Gift-giving

My Aunt Corda had a powerful influence on me. She epitomized what it meant to be a lady. Granted, I’ve never quite lived up to her standard of the gentile southern woman, but I did get that being considerate and giving to others were high on her list of values.

I like being given invitations to participate in gatherings and celebrations. I’m touched by gifts that make that personal connection. And I especially appreciate acts of kindness when my life gets wonky.

My friend’s birthday is coming up and I want to acknowledge her with a gift. That’s what I want.

My next step is to consider her—how well do I know her, know what she’d like to have? I remember last week when we discussed lenses for our phone cameras. Perfect, I thought—that would be the perfect birthday gift, and I happen to have some phone camera lenses on hand.

That means I don’t have to go shopping (not my favorite activity). And, I have gift bags from my own birthday last week. That makes this a very easy gift to give.

But then I start to move from consideration of her to consideration of my self; I start questioning myself. I ask myself, did I do enough for her birthday present? Maybe it was too easy. Shouldn’t I have had to work harder to get her something? If I haven’t spilled blood, sweat or tears to add value to this token of my affection, will she appreciate my gift? Will she really “get” how much I honor our friendship if finding her gift was this simple?

Do you catch the shift? Do you see when I switched tracks from consideration of her to consideration of me? Do you see where I turned from what do I want to give her to how do I want her to react to my gift? It’s a major shift, and a troubling one.

Going down the slippery slope of wanting her to feel a particular way in response to my gift sets up an impossible situation: I can’t control how she’ll feel, how she’ll react. Blurring the line between what I want to give to the anxiety that comes from wanting her to feel a certain way about my gift moves from consideration to expectation.

It comes back to this: I don’t have to work so hard in search of the “perfect” birthday present. I don’t have to suffer to get what I want—a thoughtful present for my friend. My anxiety won’t add to the celebration of her birthday. My biggest gift is to focus not on what I expect her to feel about my gift. My gift—to her and to myself—is simply to delight in the gesture of giving.

Be considerate today. Make thoughtful gestures for the simple pleasure of doing it. Give without expecting any particular response from the other person. Warm up your “I want to be considerate” muscles by looking inward and letting go of outward expectations.

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Posted in acceptance, anxiety, inspiration, judgement, self-help on 03/21/2017 05:38 am

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