A friend recently asked my advice on how to charitably cut off the many gifts she has been continually receiving from another friend. This may not sound like a problem at all to some of us. In fact, it may seem awesome! But this is definitely a nightmare for the non-gift-givers – the ones who find themselves hoping there is extra room in their obese Goodwill donation bag, at the very same moment they are unwrapping the gift.
But it’s important to realize that some people feel very loved through the constant act of giving and receiving little tokens of affection. Even though some of us might find this unnecessary gift-giving a trap of cyclical debt, there may be redemptive merit in honoring the love language of our sister. Beyond the overwhelm of needless collective nick-knacks, it’s important to consider that the gift giver may not be struggling so much with a vice of materialism. Instead, this may be her way of showing and receiving love.
Oh human nature, you tricky, tricky vixen! The hardest part about loving another person is learning how to speak their unique love language – the way they feel valued and show value in return. Because each of us knows and understands our own love language best, we by default, assume that everyone responds to this same form of communication. Uh-oh, can you see where this is going? Just imagine entering a room with several different foreign speakers, and not only trying to communicate in your native tongue, but demanding they do as well.
Communication is the greatest bridge between all human interactions – friendship, marriage, family relationships. Therefore, telling the gift giver to stop gifting, is like telling her to stop loving in her own unique way.
There are a series of books called The 5 Love Languages, by author Gary Chapman. These books do an excellent job of unlocking the mysteries of our unique expressive communication systems. Whether you show love through words of affirmation, acts of service, gift-giving, quality time, or physical touch – it’s really crucial to know this about yourself, your spouse, and your children. Thankfully many marriage prep classes have begun to cover this in depth, recommending books such as The Temperament God Gave Your Spouse, by Art and Laraine Bennett – before marriage. I can’t agree enough with this valuable advice.
Before we even began our marriage, my husband and I were able to set proper boundaries – establishing for each other the freedom and comfort we needed, to react and deal with situations in our own way. Therefore, I learned that despite the fact that I like to talk things out as soon as an issue arises – letting everything on the top of my mind fly out of my mouth, my husband needs to take time to collect his thoughts first. Through this understanding came a mutual respect. I no longer saw his delay as a way of blowing me off, but rather preparing his heart to say what truly needed to be said. Knowing this, I have been happy to give him the time he needs. Likewise, he is aware of my need to state what’s bothering me, and therefore may choose to hear me out and then take time to reflect, or state a few things to hold me over before taking time to himself.
Understanding these unique languages of expression transcends the home, and strengthens work environments, friendships, as well as communal situations. Charity is a language we are all encouraged to learn, and through charity comes the valiant effort to understand and attempt speaking the language of the friend, rather than forcing them to speak ours. Physical touch for instance has the ability to make another person feel secure and maternal…or in other instances, it can be just plain creepy. It’s important to know the boundaries of expression and the audience.
In returning to the original dilemma of the gift-giver, I advise trying to redirect the gift giving by foremost expressing clearly that the giver is loved and appreciated simply for who she is. Allow her to express her love language by suggesting you begin leaving meaningful notes for one another, trading favors, or perhaps mentioning little things you actually need. If you’ve been searching for a unique item that the gift-giver finds, be sure to shower her in gratitude. This is a loving way to make her feel truly appreciated, while limiting the discomfort you may feel.
Finally, recall your own desire for others to respond to you in your own native tongue. With this in mind, consider doing something special for the gift giver from time to time. It’s not the monetary value of the gift, but rather the appropriateness and thoughtfulness that make the giver’s day!
Discover your Love Language
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