December 19, 2016

The Problem With Gift Giving

3 rice cookers = suffering x 3.

What kind of stuff do you buy for the person that has everything? Nothing. You buy them nothing. What kinds of stuff do you buy for the hard to buy for person? Same. Nothing. How about the easy to buy for individual? You guessed it. Nothing again.

Tis the season for frenzied shopping and gift giving. But there is a problem with both giving (and receiving) gifts. This should be pondered before beginning the yearly shop-a-thon that we do mostly because we are told to by people that want our money.

Here is the crux of the matter. If you give a gift the recipient doesn't want, they suffer. They would be better off with no gift. No winners here, not even the person that will end up with the thing after it is re-gifted.

Even if you "nail it" and get the perfect gift someone actually wants, they still will suffer. The new thing will demand their attention, require space to store, and possibly require maintenance from time to time. The gift may have other unintended consequences.

Eventually the item might break, or be lost or stolen. In the end, the gift-ee will be separated from the thing they desire. Pain results again. The person would be better off with no gift. No winners here either.

But there is an answer. There is something that can be given with a clear conscience.

What says "I love you" more than giving the gift of yourself? Your time. Instead of spending precious moments shopping for things that will cause pain and suffering, why not use that time to acknowledge the ones you love?

Write a note, letter, email, private message, tweet, or text to tell them you care. Or if geographical considerations allow, spend time together, in the same place at the same time, enjoying each other's company. It's free, it's cherished by most, and if done with compassion, will not cause pain.

Everyone wins when the thing we joyfully give is our loving, attentive selves. No shopping. Free.


  1. Anonymous12/19/2016

    The trick consumerism employs is to use neuro chemistry to sell. Gift giving can create oxytocin. News works on many neuro transmitters including dopermine and the fight and flight response. Consumption can display status and self worth, it is a way of finding novelty. It is hard for people to figure out they have been tricked because it feels almost real. The good news is as the more the world becomes virtual the more the physical body will rebel.
    The down side is that 21 cities in China went into red alert last week due to pollution and there was a protest put down in Chengdu.
    Will we all wake up in time? We will have to wait and see.

  2. Hello Gregg,

    I agree with your sentiments completely. As a teacher I've struggled with getting gifts from students, but thankfully this practice is not as popular as it used to be. I felt guilty about re-gifting everything, guilty about the environmental cost and the waste, and sometimes resented the time it took me to find a new home for things. I do love a home-made card though, especially if it expresses what the student has enjoyed about learning that year.

    About 3 weeks ago a large part of my home was destroyed by fire. I can honestly say that as we ran from the burning building things like saving our favourite 'stuff' or even photos did not cross our minds. All I thought of was getting the children and animals out. And as I watched the fire and waited for the fire truck to arrive I felt so grateful we were all alive. It is hard not to be able to live in our own home for a while, but other than the truly useful - pots and pans, towels and sheets - there is nothing I'm going to miss.


    1. Anonymous12/19/2016

      Madeleine, I'm so sorry for the fire, but relieved to hear all the living beings got out safely. I've often pondered about how I would feel if I lost all in a fire ( as it pertains to no stuff) sorry that you had to actually experience it.

    2. Madeleine,

      So sorry to hear of your scary event. We are happy everyone is all right. That's a tough one.

    3. So glad to hear that you all got out! Even if you won't miss all the stuff, I imagine the upheaval and organising a place to live, etc, isn't much fun. I hope you are back in your own home soon x

  3. Sorry to hear about the fire Madaleine. That would have been really scary. I have no doubt foremost on your mind was getting out your children and pets. How devastating the alternative would have been :(

  4. Although I do buy some Christmas presents (and people buy presents for me) I avoid buying random stuff (like rice cookers!) just because. My boyfriend is getting new underwear because his current stuff has massive holes in, for example.
    My close friends and I used to do 'Secret Santa', but recently decided not to bother and to go for a weekend away together instead- much more valuable than Christmas things!
    So I am not quite at the no presents stage, but it feels like I am naturally travelling in that direction, year by year.

  5. Anonymous12/20/2016

    I think maybe 200+ years ago, Christmas presents may have been relevant, in the days where people really needed things. Whereas now no one 'needs' anything (that money can buy), and there is an entire industry devoted to gifts for 'the person who has everything'.
    You will be pleased to hear I have convinced my family - previously obscene gift purchasers - into the second Christmas running with no presents for adults. We are still doing gifts for children, this is my next area to work on....
    Merry Christmas to you Gregg and Linda
    Clara, Australia

    1. Clara,

      Congratulations on getting yourself and your adult family members off of excessive Xmas gift giving. From experience, and from reading what others share here, it is evident that this is not an easy task. Mother Earth thanks you for this lasting gift to her, and to all life that lives within her loving embrace.


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