A person cannot buy allegiance nor can they cover up selfishness and bad behavior by buying more stuff. In the end those gifts always look cheap and self-serving.

“We cannot buy love, and we cannot keep people around indefinitely by trying to buy their allegiance.  All the money in the world cannot compensate for bad behavior and self centered desires.” Dr. Chris Shanklin, psychologist and author of For Love’s Sake: How to Express Your Gift of Love.

Yikes!  Thirteen days until Christmas.  Even after all of my rational thinking about budgets and gifts and staying the financial course, gift-giving still occasionally causes a little bit of a knot in my stomach.  I never have as much money as I want when I start down my list.  I sometimes think if I just had more money it would be easy to find the really perfect gift, and I worry that the gift will not come close to expressing how deep my love is.  Or I worry that it won’t measure up to my self-imposed level of creativity.  I have learned that the best gifts honor the other person and are a reflection of what their heart desires, not mine. People who love us don’t judge us on how expensive the gift is.  Often the note that comes along with the gift is as important as the gift itself.  In fact, the words sometimes survive long after the gift is forgotten. But here is something to remember this next 13 days:  This one holiday is not going to be the only thing people you love remember.  Your care has been building since the beginning of your relationship.  Your love is evident before they open one package, because you’ve been carefully tending the relationship all along in hundreds of ways day-by-day and prayer-by-prayer.

In Dr. Shanklin’s book the section on the “Attitude of Giving” grabbed my attention. I think you might recognize someone you know in these descriptions of types of giving, and I want to caution you not to fall into the same trap.

1.  Guilt giving

2.  Manipulative giving

3.  Control giving

4.  Replacement giving

All of these attitudes of giving try to make up for the lack of real care by the giver.  They are about “buying allegiance,” as Chris states in the quote above.  And in the end as we all know, allegiance can never be bought. Often during these early holidays of transition, our wasbands are eager to be seen as generous, loving, caring people both to their own children (and others) and to the new people in their lives. They are desperately trying to bolster their own self-esteem by buying stuff. But if other actions reveal their true character and their self-centered thinking, children, extended family and friends see through this ploy eventually.  Your small heartfelt gift with words of honor and appreciation will be meaningful and cherished by those you love. None of us can ever buy back lost integrity or spend enough to counteract bad behavior. Gifts given with that motivation look cheap and tawdry no matter how flashy they are and how much they cost.

“Every time you cross my mind, I break out in exclamations of thanks to God.  Each exclamation is a trigger to prayer.  I find myself praying with a glad heart.”  Philippians 1: 3-4 (The Message)