Pile of gifts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“Care to appear happy…..” ~ Saint Therese
Do you ever buy yourself Christmas presents? I do. One of my presents to myself this year is Gretchen Rubin’s book “Happier at Home”. I loved her first book, “The Happiness Project” so thought I would get this sequel of sorts.
In the December chapter of her book, she gives two particularly good pieces of advice. The first is taken from her favourite “obsession”, Saint Therese of Lisieux, whose philosophy entailed taking “care to appear happy and especially to be so.” (p. 116) This quote from the Saint who died young of tuberculosis, tells me that being happy is something we can conjure up, something that is within our control, no matter how we feel. We can be happy (or at least appear so) if we set our mind to it for the sake of others.
The other piece of advice Gretchen provides in this chapter is extremely timely. She says that Saint Therese emphasizes “the importance of accepting gifts in the spirit in which they are offered, instead of responding to the gift itself,” which is just another way to “care to appear happy.”
This takes us out of the equation and puts the emphasis on the person who chose the gift for us and the thought and trouble that went into the choice. I love this! I have been guilty in the past of just looking at how I will use a gift, or what I will wear it with, or whether I can keep it alive, or any number of other things, rather than the fact that the gift is an offering of love, thoughtfulness, kind-heartedness and consideration.
So, this holiday season, I am determined to take the time to respond to the spirit in which the gift is given rather than the gift itself.
Gretchen does draw the line at passive-aggressive gifts though. She says that sometimes the spirit in which a gift is given is not all that kind—for example, when someone is gifted running clothes, a certificate to a spinning class and an electronic calorie counter—a none too subtle message is being sent.
I myself would be very unhappy to receive gifts that emphasize “organizing your life”—I am afraid I would have trouble accepting them in the spirit they are given—since that spirit would be a little annoying. I do not need a “teaching moment” gift. (Pearls would be nice though–a single black pearl on a silver chain in particular if anyone is wondering–this is useless as my husband does not read my blog. It is something that he is going to get around to some day. That day has not yet come.)
Have you ever received a gift that you had to remember the spirit in which it was given, because otherwise you would wonder what the heck the person was thinking?