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Understanding gifts

Let’s not confuse gifts with favors and presents.

A favor is an investment. When you do a favor for someone there is a hope that they will return that favor. For that reason, favors range in effort and commitment from person to person.

A present is similar to a gift in that it costs money for the sender; and for the receiver, it’s free. But presents are not gifts. When your company gives you a holiday “gift” card or your rich cousin buys a last-minute box of chocolates for your birthday—those are presents.

A gift costs the giver something real. It requires some sort of sacrifice on the part of the giver (no matter how small). It could also involve a certain level of commitment, risk, or vulnerability. A true gift connects. Really good gifts touch people, change people.

Here’s the crux of it all: real gifts must be given with the right attitude. If you give a gift for which you have sacrificed something in order to give it, for which you have made yourself vulnerable, for which you have extended a large amount of emotional energy, but you give it with a bad attitude, in the wrong spirit of giving, then it’s not a gift at all. It’s the opposite of a gift. Which, I guess, makes it a theft—for you are literally taking something that’s not yours away from someone you really don’t know.

How will you give this holiday season? What are you willing to sacrifice? It’s worth thinking about. It’s worth changing your attitude for.