If you’re panicking about getting everyone in your life a Christmas present, this article is for you. “Priceless” is a word we all love to hear, and while the gift suggestions below don’t require your wallet, you may find they are more challenging to give than a pair of fuzzy socks or even the newest iPhone.
In short, the best gift you can give to those around you and yourself is the gift of self. Sounds like a cheap and cheesy way to get out of spending cash, but giving yourself to others benefits you just as much as them. Personal encounter is the one thing that can truly touch us, and the exchange goes both ways.
Advent is a season of preparation and the perfect time to grow. So why not start with some unconventional gifts that will challenge you while also showing others how much you love them?
1. Offer undivided attention
Have you ever realized halfway through a conversation that you have no idea what the other person is talking about? We’re all guilty of letting our minds wander, and I’m sure you’ve also been on the other side of the scenario where someone wasn’t really listening to you. When networking and meeting new people at social events becomes so routine, it’s easy to forget how impacting genuine interest in conversation can be — even with our closest friends and family members.
Being seen and understood is one of the deepest desires we have. We are made for community, so sharing ourselves with another is a precious gift in its own right, while listening and encountering that person is a gift in response. Think about a time when you spoke with someone and felt that they truly cared about you — it could be your mom, your best friend, or even someone you just met. When you feel that someone actually wants to hear your thoughts, understand your feelings, learn about your experiences, and come to know who you are at your core, it reminds you of your inherent worth.
Showing genuine interest and undivided attention can make a world of difference to someone who feels like they are insignificant, unimportant, invisible, unheard, or unwanted. Giving our pure attention is a reflection of how God sees all of us: infinitely interesting and wanted. Every human person is made in God’s image, and seeing someone for their unrepeatable personhood and wanting to understand them is a way to find God in every person we encounter — because He is in every person we encounter.
2. Set reasonable expectations
Nothing ruins an experience like having unreasonable expectations. It’s easy to depend upon others to make us happy — especially during the holidays when there is such an emphasis on relationships. But anytime we depend upon another person to fulfill us, we are setting ourselves up for disappointment while putting an unfair burden upon our loved ones. Friends, family members, or a significant other can never live up to the expectations we set for them simply because we are responsible for our own happiness. When they are not met, expectations turn into resentments, and those resentments will eventually ruin our relationships.
Of course, this isn’t to say you should have low standards for your relationships or that you should allow people to mistreat you. But when spending time with your friends and family, remember that your state of happiness should not be impacted by what they give or don’t give you. You’ll find that when you do spend time with them without your personal expectations, you’ll be able to notice and appreciate the unique ways they show their love. This will allow you to really enjoy the person simply for who they are and not for what they can do for you.
3. Forgive when forgiveness isn’t asked
There is a popular quote circulating on Pinterest: “There is nothing more classy or more powerful than showing forgiveness and grace to someone who doesn’t deserve it.” Sounds kind of harsh, but it’s true for all of us, isn’t it? Christ is ready to give us mercy and forgiveness, even when we’ve messed up in the worst way imaginable.
Showing forgiveness to someone who’s wronged us, even when they aren’t sorry, takes a great deal of humility. It’s easier to forgive someone who’s accidentally hurt us, but the real test is forgiving someone who knowingly caused us pain. Forgiving this person, even when they haven’t truly recognized their error or asked for forgiveness, is a generous gift not only to that person but to yourself.
This is, of course, easier said than done. The first step to forgiving someone is to see them in all their brokenness. When someone hurts us, it almost always comes from their own place of pain. At the end of the day, the only thing left to do is feel compassion for the hurt they’ve experienced. When you feel truly sorry for someone, it’s hard to harbor anger against them. Not to mention the fact that we’re all broken — we all have been hurt and have hurt others because of our pain. Recognizing that others (and namely, God) have forgiven us for the hurt we’ve inflicted should make us more inclined to similarly forgive those who have wronged us.
So whether it’s an ex-boyfriend or girlfriend, ex-best friend, estranged family member, or even someone who’s still close to you, see them as someone who’s struggling and making mistakes. When you see their brokenness and forgive them for it, you will let go of the power they have over you, which is freeing. You have no idea of the impact mercy has on someone who is forgiven — that kind of love is transformative.
4. Say you’re sorry first
Getting into arguments is especially common around the holidays. Stress is high and extended periods of time with certain family members is a recipe for conflict. Sometimes a fight is a long time coming, but sometimes it’s a random spat that blows up out of nowhere. If you’ve ever stormed away after an argument or stewed in post-fight anger, the best gift you can give to yourself and your family member or friend is to say “sorry” first.
Apologizing first doesn’t necessarily mean you’re wrong and the other person is right, it just means you value your relationship more than your pride. It’s about facing the conflict head-on in a healthy, mature way by being the first person to make the step to solve the problem and talk about it in a calm manner. Biting the bullet to have a productive conversation will give you peace so you can carry on with your day without bad feelings or tension for both parties. It’s a good habit to solve problems and address conflict in your relationships in a timely and healthy manner.
5. Surrender things out of your control
If you’ve ever tried to perfectly orchestrate your holiday festivities, you know how difficult it is to force Christmas cheer — especially when things go wrong. This is also true when it comes to our everyday life. Seeking too much control over your experiences is a sure way to make yourself and everyone around you miserable.
When you attempt to control too much of your life, it becomes impossible to enjoy the good things that happen, because things inevitably go wrong and you’re constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. Similarly, it’s hard to accept anything bad that happens because you feel solely responsible and therefore upset that something seemingly unfair has happened to you.
Surrendering whatever happens, good or bad, is an acknowledgment that you’re not in total control of your life and that whatever happens — that you’re willing to grow from the experience. When you recognize and accept that some things (especially other people) are out of your control, it allows you to be more emotionally available to the people around you. Instead of constantly planning for the future, you can finally encounter the present moment and be there for the people right in front of you.