Dear Dr. Yael,
I really enjoy your column and hope that you can address an issue before Chanukah – gift giving and expectations.
Growing up, we did not expect gifts. Our parents and grandparents were zoche to be here before the war and raise ehrliche families. The men either had their own businesses or lost their jobs every week since they refused to work on Shabbos. Surviving these situations made our families appreciate everything we had and every gift we got, no matter the monetary worth. We understood that times were tough and that love was the most important thing a family could share. When my children were little, our parents usually gave them a dollar each for Chanukah – that was considered a lot in our family.
Where are our values today? They seem to have disappeared and been replaced with desires and expectations.
I am hoping that you can begin a discussion that will convince others to cut down on material gifts and give more love, time and compliments.
Separately, I am wondering how to deal with a difficult personality, specifically my mother-in-law.
I agree with you that parents today give gifts more than they give their time. Yet, all the gadgets in the world cannot compensate for the love and time that children need to grow up confident and secure. The gift of giving is very special. When we give to someone we begin to love them. Why do you think we love our children more than anyone else? Because the love is strengthened whenever we do for them. And that does not mean giving them money; it means giving of our energy, of our space, of our daily time.
The same holds true for others in our lives. If you want to have a good relationship with someone, then you need to embrace the gift of giving to them. Think about when your child (or a child you are close to) was a newborn. You gave and gave and gave with no thought of what you would receive. This is a sacrifice we do not do for many, but if we can transfer even a small piece of this giving to others, we will be happier people.
Many individuals often ask me how to deal with a difficult person. My answer is usually to give to them. Buy that person a gift, go out of your way to be nice to that person, do that person a favor. In this way, you will create more positive feelings towards that person and he/she will generally feel more positively towards you as well. This idea may sound silly, but it really works.
This idea can be translated to many relationships. For instance, in a marriage, we may not even realize how much of an impact the things we do for each other every day has on our relationship. Marriage is give and take, and if we focus on how much we can give, rather than on how much our spouse can give to us, our marriage will vastly improve. Of course we need to think about our personal needs as well, but it is important to remember that the gift of giving is like no other.
If your boss or co-worker does not seem to be particularly nice to you and you don’t like him or her that much either, buy a gift. You may not like this idea because let’s be honest, who wants to give to someone who is not nice to you, however, giving to someone can really build and fortify a relationship.
The root of the Hebrew word for love, ahava, is ahav, which means to give. True ahava, true love, is when we are more concerned about giving to the other than receiving. Love is not about getting a certain feeling from someone, it is about giving devotion and time. In giving, we are building love in our relationships. In the zechus of giving to others may we spread positive feelings in all our relationships. Hatzlocha!