The modern holiday season would not be complete without the many jewelry ads calling men to “give love this Christmas”. These ads are the epitome of the commercial Christmas spirit. “Give her the rock and she will love you forever…or at least you won’t sleep alone on New Year’s Eve”. “Show the depths of your affection with something really, really expensive.”
Now don’t misunderstand me. I’m not opposed to the occasional luxury in one’s life. If diamonds are your thing, then enjoy! It is the association of giving luxury items with love that troubles me. Do we truly believe that the cost of the gift indicates the size of the sentiment behind it? And if so, why?
We could take the easy way out of this dilemma and blame it on Hallmark. Those evil holiday merchants and advertisers have conspired to make us spend beyond our means to prove our undying devotion. There may be a grain of truth to this; but that still does not answer the “why” question. Why do we fall for the hype?
One reason may be that things are easier to connect with than people. We live in a busied world where there never seems to be enough time for life’s most essential connections. The obligations of work and home life often take precedence over quality family time, spiritual time and personal time.
Faced with limited energy and few opportunities to nurture our love relationships, we opt to let a gift express our love. The gift takes on the awesome responsibility of making up for our lacks in the love department. What we give symbolizes the love we would give if only we could find the time.
Our gifts stand in for us like understudies in a play. If we can’t be present to perform the daily actions that real loving entails, the gift is there. The card that accompanies it knows all the right lines and delivers them with enthusiasm. But when the shiny wrapping is torn apart and the holiday a memory, the realization hits us. The star of this play did not perform tonight.
Then again, perhaps we place so much value upon the gifts we give and receive because we place so little value on ourselves. We somehow get the twisted notion that our gifts are an accurate measure of our self-worth. They reveal the value we would like people to place upon us. People to whom we give more will value us more; and people to whom we give less will value us less.
In a related and equally twisted way, we often value ourselves more when we can give bigger and better things. The idea of giving time and sharing yourself with another person will not seem valuable to one who does not value herself. Receiving a small or inexpensive gift may be taken as a slight to one who already thinks he is not good enough. However, the giving or receiving of an expensive gift says, if only in a fleeting way, “You are associated with something great. You must be great too!”
But perhaps the most common reason we buy into the “give love at Christmas” hype is simply and utterly positive. It feels good to give! What person, if they have the choice, would not give the best of everything to those they love?
The Christmas season, in a way, gives us permission to be bold and impractical in our expressions of love. It reminds us that while it is the thought and spirit that count, it is OK to put your money where your mouth is once in awhile. Seeing the delight on the faces of those you hold dear is worth six extra months of credit card interest.
So, whether by great gifts, sumptuous meals, joyous carols or family traditions, be certain that your every action this holiday shows those you love in a direct and unmistakable way just how much you care for them. If possible, take that love from your family to those who are less fortunate.
Give to a food or toy drive. Let the little ones toss the change into the Salvation Army’s red kettles. Volunteer at a shelter or soup kitchen. Participate in religious services. In whatever way seems best to you and yours, share the love you have been given. It will only grow and strengthen as you give it away.
Make love the focus of your holiday choices and you cannot go wrong!
Dr. Janice Staab is a philosophical counselor and life coach. For more information on her services or to schedule your free consultation, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out her Web site at www.lifesignscoaching.com.