According to a personality inventory quiz I recently took, I’m an introvert. Not altogether surprised about that, since I never really enjoyed meeting new people, and being in a crowd saps my energy. But it did give me a chance to do a bit of introspection. And I figured out something about myself: I often gave people gifts so they’d like me. I’m not talking about family members. I wanted to give them things—wished I could have given them more. I’m talking about people I barely knew, people I worked with, neighbors and people I went to church with. And I often gave people things that cost more than my modest income would comfortably allow.
Realizations: 1. Giving gifts or deferring to someone in hopes it will make that person like you doesn’t work; they’ll just take your flattery/gifts and despise or mistreat you anyway. My mind flashes on the image of a puppy with its tail between its legs, piddling on the floor in an act of submission. 2. Giving overly expensive gifts is in reality a passive-aggressive way to put the receiver in your debt, making them uncomfortably aware that they owe you. Of course, if that’s the intention, give oh give away. But understand that along with feeling beholden, they’ll resent you. 3. While I’ve not had the mixed blessing of falling into this category, giving an overly-expensive gift could be a way to tell the world you’ve arrived, you’re wealthy, you’re relevant. 4. Or perhaps you feel guilty you’re a HAVE, while those around you are HAVE NOTS.
Don’t get me wrong—I still believe it’s better to give than to receive. In fact, I feel stronger than ever about the importance of helping those in need. It’s not just important, it’s something I believe we’ll be called on to answer for. But I’m not discussing altruistic behavior. I’m talking about covert ways to control someone else’s feelings or behavior.
So I’ve decided to try to make my gifts appropriate to the recipient. And I realize just because something costs a lot doesn’t necessarily mean it has value.