For control-freaks like me, who hold too tightly to the budget parameters, wish lists, and status quo, it can be frustrating when someone decides to go rogue. But, we have to understand that their intentions were good and accept how they show love.
“What made you think this is something I would like?”
“Oh, this isn’t the color I wanted.”
“Are you sure this gift was for me?”
“You kept the receipt, right?”
No, these aren’t words muttered by a five-year-old; unfortunately, these cringe-worthy comments came from my almost mid-twenties' lips. Regretfully, youth or ignorance wasn’t to blame, just a general lack of care mixed with selfishness.
I have spent many a Christmas morning in tears. Not tears flowing from overwhelming love and gratitude, but tears from disappointment and feeling let down. Like most other celebrations, the anticipation is far more exciting than the reality. Thus, when the event actually takes place, I’m usually disappointed because instead of finding joy at the moment, I critique and compare it to the preconceived notion I had in my head, and rarely do they match up. Christmas time, specifically when it comes to gift-giving, only exacerbates the situation, bringing out the worst in me.
Thankfully, I’ve learned to check my heart and choose my words carefully when a gift doesn’t quite match my expectations.
Check out 3 kind things to say when you get the gift you didn’t want:
1. "Thank you"
Saying thank you seems like an obvious answer, but a simple “thank you” is all that is needed. Whether we like the gift or not, we should be thankful for the giver, acknowledging their thoughtfulness and generosity. As an over-thinker, I have to restrain myself from talking too much, especially when transitioning to flattery to conceal my dislike. In this situation, is flattery a bad thing? A white lie to protect the gift giver’s feelings? While our intentions are good, the answer is yes; it is never okay to lie.
Numerous times in the book of Proverbs, we see how flattery is like an adulterous woman ( Proverbs 7:5). Flattery says, “how can I look better?” where a compliment says, “How can you look better?”. Let’s look at ways we can be sincere in our responses, choosing to compliment instead of flatter:
“Thank you; I am so grateful to have such a dear friend.”
“You are always so thoughtful.”
“You have such a gift of generosity. Thank you for sharing your resources with me.”
All three responses express genuine gratitude. They are not dependent on the present but recognize that family and friendship are a gift in themselves.
“Those who control their tongue will have a long life; opening your mouth can ruin everything.” (Proverbs 13:3 NLT)
2. "I appreciate your thinking about me."
When we receive a gift of any kind, a sacrifice is made for our enjoyment. Think back to your high school economics class: opportunity costs; to get x, you have to give up y. The exchange can involve time or money, and often both. For instance, someone had to give both of these resources to purchase a gift. They spent time at work, shopping, and scheduling a meeting time. They had to give their precious pennies in exchange for an item they hoped would bring joy. Bearing that in mind, we can easily say, "thank you for thinking about me,” regardless of the physical gift we receive.
The first Christmas with my husband, I’d mentioned numerous times that I wanted a necklace. When I saw the tiny box under the tree, I couldn’t contain my excitement. I tore open the box, ripped open the lid, and blurted out, “This isn’t the necklace I wanted.”
Earlier that month, we watched a movie, and there was a scene with two women wearing necklaces. I mentioned that I liked her necklace, neglecting to specify which her. My husband had taken a mental note, spent weeks trying to find the same necklace, and spent a great deal of his Christmas budget for me.
Was it the necklace I wanted? No, but that doesn’t justify my response and complete disregard for his feelings. Often, when we are disappointed by what’s not under the tree, we forget to be thankful for all the things we have, like a thoughtful spouse, friend, or family member.
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)
3. "What a surprise! You are so much fun!"
I don’t traditionally like surprises. However, I’ve found that I have been pleasantly surprised by gifts not found on my list. I’ve learned to “set the guard on my mouth” (Psalm 141:3) when someone says, “ I know this wasn’t on your list, but…” Conversely, I’ve opened an unexpected gift and mentally accessed who would be the next victim-- I mean recipient... I could pass this off.
For control-freaks like me, who hold too tightly to the budget parameters, wish lists, and status quo, it can be frustrating when someone decides to go rogue. But, we have to understand that their intentions were good and accept how they show love. Perhaps to you, showing love is getting someone exactly what they want. But, to another, showing love is thinking outside the box.
Keeping to our kind words and simple thank you, we can direct our praise to the giver over the gift:
“You are always so much fun. I bet you enjoyed shopping for this!”
“This must have taken a lot of thought, thank you!”
“You always know how to surprise me. Thank you for caring about me.”
It would be easy to brush these off as suggestions. And, no, we don’t have to use these exact sentiments, but we should be considerate of other people and carefully craft our responses. When in doubt, remember the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:12, “ So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Would you want someone to say harsh words to you? How would you feel if someone spoke unkindly about your gift? We are not obligated to like every gift we receive, but we are called to self-control, kindness, and gentleness. Allow the Holy Spirit to work in your heart, choose joy, and remember, there’s always next year!
Photo Credit: © Getty Images/Antonio Guillem