Gifts and Obligation

I think there is far too much obligation attached to gift-giving. A true gift should be given without expectation or agenda, and the receiver can be grateful for the gift even if it’s not something they want or need … and even if they don’t keep it.

Say you received a gift years ago – so long that you might not even remember who gave it to you. You were happy to receive it and for a while you used or wore it regularly. But eventually you moved on from that gift. It’s been a long time now since you’ve even given it a second thought. It was a nice gift, but not especially valuable and with nothing inherently special about it. You don’t see any reason to keep it, but you’re not sure if the person who gave it to you would be offended if you gave away the item or sold it.

So what do you do? Do you keep something out of obligation even though it is no longer important in your life?


How do you think people end up with boxes full of birthday and holiday cards that they never look at? And what use does that do?

What is gratitude anyway, in the context of receiving gifts? I don’t believe that it’s a promise to cherish everything you get forever. What it really is, I think, is a sense of happiness or contentment or what-have-you connected to the knowledge that someone thought of you and bought or made or acquired something especially for you. A lot of people seem much more excited to get the big, expensive presents. I think that’s because it’s something they really can’t get for themselves. For example, I got a beautiful scarf this Christmas, something that I saw and wanted so badly but would never have bought for myself, because it cost over $100. But my mom offered to get it for me as a Christmas present. It’s not special to be because it’s expensive. It’s special because someone wanted me to have this thing that I couldn’t buy for myself and wanted. However, I don’t feel any less grateful for much less expensive gifts.

So, back to the question about the gifts you no longer want to keep: What do you do?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s