Gratitude Adjustment

8 06 2008

Today was hard.

One of my good friends gave me a Nintendo Wii for my birthday.

I gave him a t-shirt.

Sure, it was a cool shirt (obviously), but it doesn’t let you play virtual bowling with Ryan when he’s in Castro Valley.

The problem, I quickly realized, is that I am just terrible at accepting gifts. Part of this comes from having been raised in a pretty frugal environment, in which anything nice was usually paid for very visibly. As in, “We’re eating at Carl’s Jr. tonight so we’re not buying dessert this week.”

Straying from this mentality is painful for me. I am so conscious of the sacrifices that are usually associated with gifts that I would almost prefer to just do away with large-scale giving so that I wouldn’t feel guilty when I see the cost. This probably unhealthy extreme is in contrast to that of a few people I know, who both enjoy gifts and expect them at the “appropriate” times, even budgeting the money they know they will receive from friends and family weeks before their birthdays or Christmas, usually oblivious to the idea behind the gift itself.

Obviously, the mean is somewhere between these two mindsets. I know that most every person who gives me something does so because they want to, not merely because they feel any sort of obligation. It’s wrong for me to cringe in the face of their gifts because I fear their resenting me when they later feel the effects of their gift. In fact, it’s probably downright arrogant of me to think I know what they can afford to give better than they do. Even if their gift does end up costing them more than they anticipated somewhere down the road, that’s their issue, not mine. As the one receving the gift, my job is simply to be grateful and to enjoy what I am given. Being conscious of their sacrifice is fine, for it can certainly enhance our appreciation of the gift; when I become so conscious of their sacrifice that it starts to take away from the gift, however, I am judging their actions as wrong. Essentially, I am saying that they were wrong to give me something, that I don’t deserve it and that I resent them for putting me in such an awkward spot.

How perverted is that?

For now, I’ll keep trying to assume a demeanor of unadulterated joy when opening presents until the time comes when I don’t quite have to fake it any more, even when the gift itself makes me want to crawl in a hole and denounce my self-worth.

And, unless Christian subculture has lied to me, there is a pretty clear parallel here to the grace of God. Romans 6:1 pretty clearly denounces the second extreme of thankless expectation; I don’t have to look any farther than common courtesy to find a reason to abhor the first.

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