Thursday, December 17, 2009

Why receiving Christmas gifts has little meaning to me

Lately, I've been struggling about how we celebrate Christmas and it finally came to me that at least part of the problem is that receiving gifts is not my primary love language.  If you're familiar with Gary Chapman's book, The Five Love Languages, you know that he says that there are 5 primary love languages:
  1. Words of affirmation
  2. Quality time
  3. Receiving gifts
  4. Acts of service, and
  5. Physical touch.

If receiving gifts is not your primary love language, then this whole Christmastime gift-giving bonanza is gonna be lost on you.  It's not that I don't appreciate the gesture of gift-giving at all, it's just not very important to me and it doesn't scream I LOVE YOU to me like it does to some people.  Realizing that, I began to think about what is my primary love language and concluded that it's actually acts of service. When my wife helps me tackle an unpleasant job like cleaning the basement or balancing my mother's checkbook, I hear, "I love you" loud and clear.  When my sons travel 4 hours one way to spend a Saturday helping me clean out the brush that's grown up along the fence line of the yard, haul in straw and leaves to mulch the flowerbeds, and dig holes to plant trees and shrubs, I hear, "I love you" loud and clear.  When someone presents me with a beautifully wrapped package containing an article of clothing, the latest electronic gizmo, or a book and even if it's something I will like and use, I just feel awkward.  I wish I didn't, but I do.

Now that I've finally come to understand this about myself, I think I can be more at peace with the the whole Christmas gift-giving thing.  You see, just because receiving gifts is not my primary love language, it doesn't mean that it's not yours.  If I want to express my love and appreciation to you, I need to speak your language, not mine.  I was on a business trip to France many years ago with a group of co-workers.  We were having dinner one night with a large group of employees of our French affiliate.  At one table, the host told the only American at the table that although everyone at the table spoke English, they would only speak French that evening despite the fact that the American did not speak or understand French.  His rationale was that had he been our guest in the States, we would only have spoken English.  Awkward!  I share this story to illustrate the importance of speaking the love language of the other person.  It would be no more appropriate for me to opt-out of gift-giving at Christmas because receiving gifts is not my love language than it was for these people to opt-out of speaking English in the company of a guest who only spoke English. 

So there we have it  . . . I'm beginning to make peace with the dilemma of gift-giving at Christmas.  Now that I understand that we are just speaking different languages, I can freely give gifts to others understanding that their response is not necessarily the same as mine.  I also am better able to graciously receive an expression of love in the spirit that it's given even if offered in French when I only speak English!

How does the concept of love languages change the way that you look at gift giving and gift receiving?

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