Avoid Holiday Gift Guilt With 3 Helpful Phrases
Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, except for a mother stuffing stockings with individually wrapped rolls of Lifesavers, entrenched in subtly rising gift guilt that it still wasn’t enough.
On Christmas Eve as children, my sister and I would restlessly sleep in our grandmother’s guest bedroom, sharing the large bed, waiting for signs of the breaking dawn to give us permission to leave the room.
We’d quietly tip toe down the hall in anxious anticipation of that first sight of a filled stocking and one or two unwrapped gifts left by Santa. By the time our parents and grandmother were pouring their coffees the stockings laid bare on the floor and their contents strewn about.
Then we waited.
“Okay, then, who is Santa this year?” Mom or Dad would ask, and one of us would put on the official family Santa hat to pass out all the presents from under the tree. I have lots of memories of being Santa on Christmas morning, feeling a mix of joy to hand each person I loved their gifts and prolonging the excitement of the pile of wrapped up packages begging me to be opened.
Once all gifts were opened, thoroughly examined and tried-on and the occasional mis-labeled gift handed to it’s rightful recipient we’d politely thank our parents for all the things at our feet. We’d gather up the obliterated wrapping paper bits, and then hug our parents with a quick Thank You on our way to compare the year’s Christmas haul.
Then I’d hear it, every year, on the wake of my gratitude the phrase I’m tempted to repeat, but intentionally avoid around my kids.
I know now, as an adult and a parent, that behind the savoring of each smiling face of our children on Christmas morning is often a kettle brewing with guilt. Our utterly indescribable love and desire for our children as we watch their wonder come to life on Christmas can lead us to pangs of ‘not enough’. It’s the kind of love that desires, even if we know better, to give our kids everything they could ever want just to see them glow in the magic before them.
And maybe the gift guilt is born there, in that inner place where we long for endless Christmas mornings. Can any parent ever get enough of it? So, when I travel back in my mind to Christmas mornings of my childhood, the phrase, “I wish we could do more,” whispers of longing for the magic to never end – and guilt that they couldn’t do more.
We live in a time where our identities and purpose are defined by ‘more’. How much more can I get? How much more until I’m happy? Why do they have more than me?
When I heard the phrase ‘I wish we could do more’ , what I really heard was, ‘you don’t have enough’.
We didn’t have a lot of money growing up, but I never went without. I never lacked anything. And I knew my parents sacrificed a lot in order to give my sister and me the Christmas morning we dreamed of all year. Their guilt of not having more to give left me wondering what I didn’t get. What was the ‘more’ that could have been but wasn’t? How much more were my friends getting that I wasn’t?
Why ‘more’ isn’t a gift
With my own kids anxiously anticipating the wonder of Christmas morning I’m aware of how precious cultivating gratitude is during the holidays.
The illusion of more that I held onto for most of my life robbed me of a spirit of gratitude, because enough was never enough. And so, two and half years into simplifying my life and reshaping the kind of ‘more’ I desire, I’m careful to present gifts to my children with the openhanded generosity that comes from a grateful heart.
More toys, clothes, electronics, and other gifts only serve as distractions for what I wish to give more of; like gifts of time, appreciation, instruction, laughter, snuggles, experiences, love, faith, and gratitude.
More of what we really need
My parents truly wished they could give us more, as all parents do. Their hearts overflowed where their bank account didn’t and that’s what really mattered to us. But, even though I know our love and time are the most important gifts we can offer our children, this time of year seems to pit what I know and what I have (or give) against one another. Gift guilt nestles in.
Instead of saying ‘I wish we could do more,’ to my kids or family this year, I’m practicing new phrases to remind myself of what I value most from Christmas and the wonder of the season. And if you’re starting to feel the holiday gift guilt, I hope these phrases will help you practice more of what you really need: grace and gratitude.
Avoid Holiday Gift Guilt With 3 Helpful Phrases
“This gift is enough, and so am I.”
“Love is measured by presence, not presents.”
“Jesus came with nothing, to give us everything. You can’t out-give that.”
So, while there are many family traditions I’m passing on to my kids, the ‘I wish we could do more’ phrase isn’t one of them. Instead, I’m be content with what I can give this year because I’m confident that what we all need more of isn’t found underneath the Christmas tree.
Are you longing for Christmas season of peace and joy?
The holidays are as wonderful as they are stressful and often we miss the meaning behind the traditions because the looming expectations of perfection or tense family gatherings rob us of the wonder of Advent. That’s why I created Soul Prep for the Holidays, an E-book to prepare your soul for the season. It’s FREE, so grab your copy HERE.