Have you ever prepared a very special meal for someone at their request, which broke your grocery budget only to have them forgo their appreciation while asking you to make something else “next time”? Have you had someone ask you why you do not dress up for them, yet when you make yourself look stunning in response, they refuse to compliment you? Has there been a time that you put your heart and soul into responding to a desire of your loved one’s heart, only for there to be a complaint to follow? It would be my guess that you are nodding your head to one or all of these, as well as coming up with your own scenarios.
I wonder, on this day earmarked to celebrate love, how many gifts given from the heart will get a negative response from the recipient. When someone responds with anything less than appreciation that is genuine, the outcome is hurt feelings for the giver of the gift no matter how small. One year at Christmas, I watched someone light up as their loved one was opening the “grand finale” gift. When she opened the box, everyone in the room gasped as she pulled out a full-length chinchilla coat. As she pulled it out of the box and put the garment on, her face said it all. She hated the coat. None of us could believe what we were seeing. How can you hate such a gift? As she walked around the room with a clearly fake smile plastered on her face, she revealed that because the color of chinchilla was not in her color wheel, she simply could not wear that coat and be happy. It was easily the most sickening example of ungratefulness I have ever witnessed. In most cases, giving a gift is to show the recipient love, affection or appreciation. I cannot remember a time someone gave me a gift to represent their distain or dislike. Even if I receive something that I might not have chosen, I have to remember that the person giving me the gift essentially gave me a piece of their heart. When I look at a present in that manner, even if it is nothing I really want, I see I received a great gift; and, one that came at the cost of the giver. Conversely, as a gift giver, do not turn genuine appreciation from the recipient into something negative. Have you ever found yourself saying in a joyous tone, “I love them (which indicates there is more than one part of the gift), and oh my I just love the color of this one. It’s so pretty.” Only to hear the gift giver say, “Why don’t you like the other ones?” You have now put the person who is very happy with their gift, who is showing you their joy and happiness, into an uncomfortable position.
In general, we are a very self-driven society. We tend to filter everything in our own lives, through our own selves. When operating an automobile, it is the safest practice to look several car lengths ahead while checking all three mirrors, which includes your rear view mirror, in order to be a good driver. Yet, when we open our mouths to speak, it is as if we are only looking as far as the dashboard of our own desire, rather than understanding the effect our words might have. Proverbs 18:21 says, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Think to the time that you did something kind for someone and they chose not to say thank you. It is my best guess that your look of excitement changed to either a blank look, or an expression of hurt. As a single person is difficult to hear someone complain because their spouse or significant other did not live up to their expectations for whatever gift giving holiday. Yet when you listen to the story of complaint, it shows there had been a lot of thought and heart into the offering. When I hear complaints about expectation not met, I cringe. If you think about it, most of the time it is not about what you do not say, but what you do. Rather than offer complaint about not getting something different from what you had on your list of expectations or worse your hidden agenda, why not chose to say thank you for what you did get?
On a larger scale, when did it become fashionable to make love a tangible defined by flowers, chocolate or an expensive meal? As a card carrying, fully female, love desiring woman, I can honestly say I am not immune to the idea of someone demonstrating their love and affection for me in ways that are romantic. However, having been single for a period of time, I have also learned that love demonstrated in ways not typically defined by society means more to me than something forced by the calendar and Hallmark.
A wise friend of mine once said, “The grass is not greener on the other side of the fence. It is green where you water it.” Have you ever noticed when you praise a child, they perk up as if you gave them the golden ticket? Praising our loved ones, especially in appreciation of an action on their part, is powerful. If you are dieting and your loved one gives you chocolate covered strawberries because they know how much you love them, do not say, “What were you thinking?” Realize that they were showing you their love by knowing what you like. The best response is to say, “Thank you for remembering how much I love these”. The focus is on what you do have, rather than what you do not.
Certain days of the year seem to carry expectations, which are hard to resist in our society. “Who are you going to kiss at midnight on New Year’s Eve?” “What are you getting for your birthday?” “Will you be my Valentine?” These are tough questions when you do not have the “right” answer. Let’s face it, it is hard not to cave to what our society identifies as true love. However, what if we chose see how much we have already in our lives every day? What if, even those of us who are single, choose to see love without flowers, chocolate and an expensive meal and be grateful for those who love us daily? Most people can recite the “love chapter” from the Bible. For a refresher it goes like this,” Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” What if we chose to look at the time we leaned on someone in a time of need, and that person was patient with us? What if when you ran to the drug store because you were very ill and could not use the drive-thru, and someone let you go ahead of them in line showing you kindness? What if your engagement leaves one last friend single in your group, and she chooses to be happy for you instead of envying you? What if your friend can make the best French toast; but lets you think you can? Are you seeing a pattern here? True love does not complain, but rather it builds up the other person.
As we celebrate love today and we receive the offerings of affection from those who love or care for us, let’s remember the intent behind the gift. When we look at what we do have, rather than what we do not, we realize how richly blessed we already are and the gifts we are receiving are pieces of the heart of those we treasure. Now that is a wonderful tangible of love.