Gifts ~ Is It the Thought that Counts?

Pile of gorgeous gifts

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?


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  1. My father gave my mother a floor scrubber once for Christmas. it ended up going in the trash and the house wasn’t very merry that day.

  2. I once received deodorant as part of a gift. Seeing as my hygiene is something I really care about and I always like to smell nice, I was a little bit offended. But I still accepted it with a smile though. At least it wasn’t cheap deodorant. 😉

  3. Darn!! There goes my idea of giving you personal organizing lessons for Christmas. I was going to give TBM the same thing LOL :).

    • ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

      • Um, I’d never refused an organized box of chocolates.

      • okay, you got me there

      • Hey, how come you haven’t guessed the mystery photo yet? 🙂

      • Good one TBM!!! LOL

  4. Hubby once gave me the same gift, two years in a row, exactly the same gift! Guess he thought I liked it so much the first time, he’d do a repeat performance. I accepted the gift with graciousness, remembering all the wonderful gifts of years past.

  5. Those “organizing your life” gifts that you mention are the absolute PITS. Argh! (Sorry, I guess that isn’t gracious but my mother does this to me a lot).

  6. Oh boy I’m sure I’ve received some doozies through the years but the one I had to shake my head at was the year my mom got me a set of electric hair curlers.. My hair was about 2″ long at the time.. She said “You can fluff it up a bit” Uh no, my hair would not wrap around the curler even 1/4 of the way.. Mom’s always look out for their girls I guess!!

    • poor moms–I think they get weary at Christmas–I know I do–now you can laugh–but at the time you were probably not happy with a “wasted” gift

      • Not at all but hey, I got $6 for the set at a yard sale years later 🙂

      • I still use them–though mine look like they have been through a war

  7. I’m a bit picky about the shirts I wear. My mum once bought me one with broad red and white vertical stripes (gack) and get this. Horizontally across the chest were three asymmetrical broad black stripes. It was so hideous that you could have adapted it for prison uniform to make escapees easy to spot.
    Thanks mum. Bless ‘er
    and Organise your life/self improvement stuff? Well you already know my views on those things. Or you should if you’ve been reading my blog
    Have a nice day ya hear?

    • hope it was of a material that you could have used it to wash your car
      -organize, smorganize– if God had wanted me to be organized he would not have given me a packrat husband and packrat kids!

      • Funnily enough I found it ideal for a drip cloth under my bike where it was leaking oil. It was pretty absorbent.
        Organised? One of my clients had a little plaque on his desk
        ‘A tidy desk is the sign of a diseased mind.’

      • I am going to write that down and give it to a colleague who keeps a neat desk, and then put it over my desk as explanation as to why it looks like it does–thanks

      • If it helps you get you through the day…

  8. Good luck, I can’t wait to hear if you were able to remember to enjoy your gifts this way. The one gift that comes to mind today is the rice cooker I received from my son and his wife a few years ago. She loves kitchen gadgets, I do not. Cooking a pan of rice is simple and doesn’t need a separate appliance, imo. So I stuffed it in the back of a cabinet and left it there, until I moved. Funny though because now it’s how I prepare most of my meals if I’m not using the slow cooker, and I am so glad I have it.

  9. Haha I have accepted doozy gifts as part of Christmas 😉

    Choc Chip Uru

  10. I Christmas shop for myself throughout the year 😉
    I’m always try to get gifts that I know will make the receiver smile or laugh. There’s so much enjoyment for me in that.

  11. I love the idea of focusing on the giver rather than the gift itself. That really does make a lot of sense. I’m always apprehensive about choosing gifts for certain people, in case they don’t like it. We have only a few very fussy people in our family, but the majority are easy to please. When I was in my 20’s, an aunt sent me a Christmas present, which I opened in front of the whole family on Christmas morning. It was a pair of pale pink HUGE cotton knickers, of the type my aunt would wear. I held them up and everyone had a laugh, except for my rather large cousin who snatched them from me, saying “Well if you don’t want them. I’ll have them.” 😀

  12. The older I get, the more likely I am to buy myself gifts.

    • we know what we want, don’t we? and we don’t have to wish that someone else gets it for us.

  13. My hubby gave me a toaster for Christmas once – he’s never done that again!

    • my hubby gave me some microwave dishes (back when microwaves were still relatively new) and he has never done that again either – ha ha

      • LOL 😀

  14. I’m laughing out loud to some of these replies! Great post honey!

    One year hubby bought me 4 PC games, 3 of which I already had! He’s had a list every year since then 😉


  15. oh yea, and it brought a smile to my face…

  16. Someone gave me a blouse that was at least three sizes too big a few years back! Made me wonder how big she saw me as and sure put me off second helpings that Christmas 😦

  17. […] The question posed here reminded me of the age old question “which comes first the chicken or the egg?”.  In this case the question about gifts is whether or not it’s the thought that counts? […]

  18. […] Gifts ~ Is It the Thought that Counts? ( […]

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