There seems to be a crazy frenzy around the holidays. Bigger seems better. People look to buy happiness even though deep down inside, if they pause for a moment, they know that a moment of euphoria does not bring lasting satisfaction. The growing consumer debt so common these days often crushes marriage and destroys families with the weight of seemingly insurmountable financial burdens. Why do we want so much? What are we looking for? Will we know it when we find it? Why do we want to keep up with the Joneses when we don’t even like them?
One of the biggest challenges in gift giving is meeting the expectations of others and of ourselves, but gift giving doesn’t have to be about buying anything.
I love the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. It has some great insight into relationships and really takes a look at what makes some people tick and I think it is fairly accurate overall. The people close to you want to be known. Can you tell what their dominant language is? Do you know your own? Many of these love languages can cross over into one another and often do. If you are obsessive about the categories you will miss out on the concept. Don’t do that!
The Love Languages (in brief–please get the book from your library and read it!)
Gifts — some people groove on being given what might seem the smallest, most inconsequential treat to you: a hard to find candy bar, a loaf of homemade bread, a bag of incredible coffee, a package of cool notecards, some gluten-free cookies, a great coffee mug, etc. If you bought or made it with them in mind (and I do feel that is the key here) then it is indeed a precious gift.
Time — For some people, making a date for something as simple as a cup of coffee and conversation is a treasured experience. Time together is invaluable. With life moving along at an incredible speed it is important to make and take the time to connect.
Words of Affirmation — Encouragement is certainly not found everywhere. If you find you think and speak encouraging words on a regular basis, then you, my friend, have an important gift. Sometimes a written note gives a gift the recipient can re-read when they are feeling discouraged.
Touch — this love language can get you into trouble if it is your main way of communicating and rightly so. Touch is so personal and clearly not what everyone wants or likes. Be very sensitive to this as you may not know “why” behind it and there may not even be a big “why” behind it. Sometimes it is just how we are wired. If touch is important to you be aware of healthy boundaries. But if you don’t mind giving a foot rub and someone very close to you loves them, wow, that can be a great match!
Acts of Service — many people find themselves so out of time that taking a job off their plate is truly the best gift. An extra set of hands working alongside yours during a difficult time can be a huge blessing. An act of service might be as simple as grabbing a gallon of milk at the store, shoveling the sidewalk for a neighbor, or an hour of free childcare.
Every love language has value. As you mature you might find that you are very open to receiving outside of your preference because you look to the giver and see the thought, sacrifice, and the love behind the gift. You may find that your preferences change with age or as the people in your life change. Probably the most important transition you can make in this area is moving away from always giving what you “speak” as far as languages go and being able to have “basic conversation” in all languages. You may be most fluent in one or two but can adjust to the preferences of others.
As you prepare to give to others during throughout the year, take a step back and think about what and why you give. Establish your boundaries and work to live within them. The expectations of others can often pose a challenge but most people can accept what we do and how we do it….eventually. Sometimes counter cultural action takes a little extra time to process.
And because shopping always seems to make its way into our season, consider shopping small businesses, locally, where you have a connection to the owners, and with those who promote and encourage what is important to your life.
What have been some treasured gifts you have received? What categories do they fall into? Do you seem to have one dominant “love Language”? Or do you find you can speak multiple languages with different people?