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When our acts of generosity can be overbearing

Red heart in child hands

Oksana Mizina | Shutterstock

Cerith Gardiner - published on 01/17/23

Check your gift-giving and acts of kindness this year to make sure they are more about the recipient and less about you.

Christmas is over for another year, and you might still have a bad taste in your mouth, or feel frustrated, that a gift you gave wasn’t warmly received.

Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, we might offer gifts that can make the recipient feel uncomfortable. Perhaps they’re perceived as too extravagant, or so thoughtful as to makes the other person feel inadequate. Or maybe the recipient feels they don’t deserve such a gift.

This was brought home to me the other day when I was out for lunch with my youngest son. On the way into the cafe, I bumped into our local baker and we exchanged hellos. (Between me and you, it was a little awkward as he had previously asked me out on a date.)

After our lunch I went to pay and the waiter explained that the baker had already paid for our lunch. It was an extremely generous act, but I felt awkward — almost as if I’d been backed into a corner.

Giving gifts at Christmas and someone’s hope for a date are two entirely different sets of circumstances. Yet, sometimes when we do generous things it might be more about us and less about the recipient.

A friend recently told me about a gift her husband presented her with. He bought her a new-fangled kettle that could boil water at different temperatures for different types of tea. My friend doesn’t drink tea. Her husband, however, loves a cup. So this was one of those presents that was more about the desires of the giver.

Then there is the gift, or act of generosity, that is so extravagant that the person receiving it feels inadequate because they can’t reciprocate. Perhaps they don’t have the same resources or the time to respond in kind.

That doesn’t take away from giving wonderfully extravagant gifts if you know it’s not going to make someone feel awkward. But it’s important when we’re giving to others, in whatever shape or form, that we really think about what we’re giving, and why we’re giving it.

Throughout the coming year, you’ll undoubtedly be buying gifts for others, or offering your help to those in need. This can provide many people great joy. However, check your motives and remember that sometimes the smallest and most personal gifts can be the most appreciated.

Acts of KindnessCatholic LifestyleChristmas
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