“The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.” – Pierre Corneille
Like most people I love receiving gifts on my birthday, holidays or the “just because” ones are the best. The thoughtfulness behind someone taking the time to give you something meaningful to them is a priceless moment to experience. As I lived a bit and experienced the turmoil and joys of life, I have come to appreciate many different types of gifts. Ones that I receive as well as ones that I give. They may not have any material value, but they are indeed valuable nonetheless. I have come to understand that I have had the opportunity to acquire and learn many of my most precious gifts as a man living my life. These are unplanned events that seemingly just happen. But they don’t, because nothing just happens. In some form or fashion I have relegated an action towards myself by my disposition and choices, or I have inflicted this on someone else by my own recognizance. What is key for me is always understanding the why and/or the what. Our roles in life can be the key indicators to where we are on the spectrum of wholeness and the tell-tell sign of where we’re going, or not depending how we’re functioning in them.
I have had several roles in my life. I’ve been a son to two great parents, a brother to three beautiful sisters, a father to three wonderful children, a close friend to a few special people, an employee at a great company for almost ten years, a mentor/big brother, and one day soon I’ll be a husband again to an amazing woman. All of these roles have forged and continue to do so, something deep in me that has made me a better man, albeit usually combined with great pain, disdain and many hard learned life lessons. For each learned lesson (and I emphasize learned, because there remains many that I am still working on) I am grateful for the wisdom and insight that I now possess. It’s as if each nugget of wisdom has produced a new gift. A gift that I gladly submit to the world daily.
It’s not that I feel I have finally arrived at a place where I’m sharing an endless amount of insight for the world to attain through me, but I have arrived at some place. A place where I recognize I am more than what I was three to five years ago. A place where I understand my ability to discern, administer patience and recognize potential pitfalls is finally clearer to me now. A place where I no longer allow fear to be the impetus of my decision-making. And finally a place where my past desire to appease others or seek approval at my own expense is no longer a factor for how I live my life.
Now when you typically think about gifts, the aforementioned is probably not what you think about. But if you humor me for a minute I’ll explain. Webster defines the word “gift” as something that is given to another person, group or organization. I’ll add that it is something usually desired, preferred or needed by the recipient. That said, when I think of a gift in this context, I believe making a decision to grow as a person can result as gift to another. Not in an arrogant or insensitive way, but with humility and grace.
There are endless articles regarding broken relationships, heart-break, hurt families and people acting out in mean and cruel ways, specifically in hostile or unpleasant environments. It leaves us numb, callous and distrustful of others, but what would happen if people chose to act out in a different way? In a way that was positive, with respect and that gives dignity for all involved, even in an unfriendly situation. I believe it would provide a very tangible heartfelt gift to the recipient of otherwise bad news.
Rudeness and bad news should not go hand in hand in a relationship.
Now I understand when someone treats us poorly, whether through breaking trust, mean-spiritedness or physical and emotional abuse, our instinctual response is to retaliate and protect self. And in no way am I saying we should not protect ourselves or excuse behavior that is hurtful towards us, but what I am saying is that we should decide what category our response should fall under based on the spirit of the act or accusation. When we make the decision to retaliate solely out of anger or our pain, we ultimately hurt ourselves in the long run. There are no gifts to be found there. Only more grief, even if it feels good at the time. What I also understand is emotions can be crazy and seemingly uncontrollable in the heat of the moment, but when you consider the many heinous acts that have been committed during the heat of passion, you have to ask yourself, “Was it all worth it?” Hopefully your answer is no.
So as a recipient and perpetrator of both I am fully aware of how it looks and feels to be on both sides. I have hurt others out of ignorance, selfishness and immaturity, and I have equally been wronged for the exact same reasons. What I have come to learn is there is a better way. I don’t claim perfection in this area of my life, but I do recognize that the gift of truth and honesty our by-products of a healthy and whole spirit and produce respect and honor. My point, retaliation, vindication and unforgiveness are indicators of brokenness within us. The other person(s) may have their issues, but when they are allowed to push our buttons, this becomes about us and not them. That is when we have to ask ourselves, “What is going here?” Why are they still able to get under my skin? Why do they make me so angry still, or how is it they can disrupt my day and they are dead? When we begin this work versus simply reacting to these types of questions, we give ourselves a fighting chance towards becoming whole and having better relationships in the future. Like a gift we literally give to ourselves.
So as we approach fall and winter and the amazing holidays that come in this time of year, I hope that you will enjoy every good gift that you receive and I equally pray that you will become the giver of the best type of gifts. The ones that are not necessarily earned or expected. And at times to the most undeserving.