Don’t give people what you like; give what they value

gift givine

Self-centeredness is a powerful force. If left unchecked, it will sully every aspect of our lives. For instance, even when we want to give something to someone else, our preoccupation with self can pollute our act—we’ll give what we value and would enjoy receiving instead of what he or she would like.

  • For my honeymoon I planned a trip to Acapulco; I had been there before and loved it, so I assumed Mary would, also. She didn’t.
  • I recently gave a friend a copy of a novel that I enjoyed reading. My friend doesn’t like fiction.
  • I took a friend out to dinner for his birthday to my favorite Mexican food restaurant. His favorite food is Italian.
  • I spoke words of instruction to my hurting friend. What he really needed was comfort.

So the next time you want to give, find out what the intended receiver wants. If you’re not sure what he prefers, ask him. He will tell you.

To get the full impact of this essay, please respond to two topics.

  • Think of a time when someone gave you a gift that he or she valued but you did not.
  • Think of a time when you gave someone a gift that you valued but the recipient probably did not.

The antidote for self-centeredness is to focus on others. Think about others and put them first – especially when giving gifts.

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15 Replies to “Don’t give people what you like; give what they value”

  1. Your post is spot-on, Don. And it makes me evaluate the true value of a gift. I remember when I bought my mother a songbook for her birthday (I am a musician). When my friend, an athlete, saw it, he said: “That’s like me buying my mom a soccer ball.” How essential to give what someone will appreciate! The hard part is that it often requires more from us than simply money.

    1. Wayne, your example about your mother is spot-on. I’m embarrassed to admit how many times I have violated this suggestion. Thanks for writing. Don

    2. Great article and so true. Thank you for the reminder. It reinforces the scripture to consider others as more important than yourself & putting their needs before our owns. It also incorporates the art of listening and observation of their lives and surroundings. Have a blessed day!

      1. Thanks, Jan, for sharing your thoughts. That’s a great verse you refer to. If we lived that verse, all our relationships would be more peaceful. Kind regards, Don

  2. Wonderful reminder, Don.
    I have always tried to give gifts that I know the intended would love to have but would never buy for themselves. It takes a lot of thought and planning but well worth the joy I receive in knowing that the it is well received.

    1. Jane, that’s a nice thought – to buy something for someone that they would like but would not buy for herself. We sometimes do that for Mary’s mom. She is so frugal; she would never buy herself nice perfume or soaps; so Mary often treats her to those types of items. Grams loves it.

  3. Many years ago, I gave my husband a fine gold watch he did not want. He did not tell me till years later that he did not like it since he would have liked another brand. He still wears the watch to this day on Sundays.
    The same thing for me. My husband bought for me a diamond bracelet. The sales lady who knew me, told him that I would not like it and advised him to get a bigger one. He did not. I never wear it. I should have taken it back for an exchange. He would have never known it was a different one than he bought. My husband could have taken back the watch. What is the matter with us??????

    1. Hedi, thanks for sharing personal anecdotes. You’re right, sometimes we have a hard time “getting it”. I know I do. Thanks for our friendship. Don

      1. The moral of the story is : the cost does not matter. If we do not like something, we just don’t . Women are more sensitive in that respect; I admit.

  4. This is so true. When I was younger, my mom collected a certain type of ceramic figurine. Because she liked them so much, I began buying her one for every birthday and christmas. She eventually (gently) told me that while she appreciated my thoughtfulness, part of what she liked about collecting was getting to go pick out the one that appealed most to her; me choosing my favorite was taking away part of her fun. After that, I’d buy her a gift card and we would go to the store together so she could pick out which one she wanted. It ended up being more fun for both of us that way.

    I recently read an article about a research study done on gift giving. It found that “the closest friends were the worst gift-givers” because they want to “signal relational closeness with gifts that demonstrate their knowledge of the recipient.” So it seems we usually have the best intentions when giving gifts the recipients don’t want… 🙂

    1. Michelle, thanks for sharing your thoughts. You have added a new layer to this issue: sometimes even if we know what someone likes, we should find out if they want to select the item. Great thought. I will read the article with interest. Take care, Don

  5. I have a life time of selfishness and self-centeredness… I need daily interventions and thoughts of what to do as well as what not to do because selfishness and self-centeredness does not go away completely with out prayer and work. thank you

    1. Katherine, thanks for your transparency. It’s something we all struggle with. Do you have a friend who could serve as a coach to help you work on this? It often takes another person to help us see and respond differently.

  6. You are so correct. So often we want others to share our likes and give them gifts that really should be a special treat for our self…..not a gift for someone else. After a few disappointments I learned to think about the gift recipient. Recently for my daughters birthday (not an easy lady to please) I gave her tickets to see her favorite performer, valet parking & after performance snacks at a nearby restaurant. Child #2 who lives in Spokane, birth was the next month. I sent him & his best friend to dinner, special IPIC theatre and Starbucks after the movie. Happy Boy!!! Both children were thrilled!!! Yippee… it when my children are happy!!

    1. Brenda, You’ve given two great examples of how this principle should be exercised. Your phrase “think about the gift recipient” is the key. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Don

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