It’s that time of year again. Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Only this many shopping days ‘til Christmas to buy those important gifts. Sale. Sale. Sale. And then you turn on the television and see those luxury car commercials. You know — the ones that show a sparkling new expensive car in the driveway with a humongous red bow and a blissful loved one.
First question: Who gives a car for Christmas?!
Second question: Even if you don’t give a car, do you sometimes fret and spend way too much angst and/or money trying to figure out the perfect gift?
Instead of investing all your time and money on stuff, plan to give something a little more personal, inexpensive, and powerfully transforming this year. As I was doing a whole study on kindness this past few years for The Kindness Challenge, I discovered that giving or sharing something precious to you is a particularly powerful way of sending a message of care to someone else. So, this Christmas, consider giving these three gifts that make a difference in any relationship — during and after the holidays.Instead of investing all your time and money on stuff, plan to give something a little more personal, inexpensive, and powerfully transforming this year. Click To Tweet
Gift #1: Time
The first gift on the list is time. What is more precious than that, these days? Seriously. Think about it. We are all busy. Both you and the person you care for. Right? So gifting time (especially at this crazy time of year!) powerfully communicates respect, value, and affection for another person.We are all busy. So giving time (especially at this crazy time of year!) powerfully communicates respect, value, and affection for another person. Click To Tweet
There are many ways to give time, but here are a few suggestions.
For spouses, if you want this to be an actual “I spent money on you” gift, show them you want to spend time with them by giving tickets to a special ballet, sporting event, concert or show that they have been wanting to see. So many people in the research have mentioned that a shared experience-related gift is special because it says, “I know you, what you care about … and I want to spend time with you.” For tighter budgets, a coupon book of walks, coffee dates, or going to a free museum show the same kind of love.
What about other ideas — including for other relationships, like family members, friends, or co-workers? A powerful gift of time could be as simple as setting aside time to listen to problems, offer advice, or even take them to lunch. It could mean turning completely away from your computer when your daughter comes into your home office and wonders when you can watch Frozen with her, or your son asks when you could play the new Xbox game with him. When you save what is on your screen, and say “What about now?” that is a very crucial message to your child (or spouse or parent) that in the middle of your time crunch, you are prioritizing them.
The couples I studied for The Kindness Challenge practiced this gift of time by rearranging their schedule to be more available for their spouse. And the impact is huge. In fact, for those who prioritize being more available to their partners, eighty-four percent report being happy in marriage.For those who prioritize being more available to their partners, eighty-four percent report being happy in marriage. Click To Tweet
Women especially value time. In my book For Men Only, my research found 70 percent of married women essentially said they would give up financial security for more time with their husbands. Ultimately, a husband spending time at home with his family might be the best gift he could give during any season.Ultimately, a husband spending time at home with his family might be the best gift he could give during any season. Click To Tweet
Gift #2: A Sacrifice of Comfort
The second gift is a sacrifice of comfort. This is one that I found especially effective and evident in healthy couples. For instance, getting up to make and bring your spouse coffee in bed on a cooooold morning shows exceptional kindness! Volunteering to do the dishes when you yourself are also exhausted from work demonstrates true others-focused love. Try to do something like that at least two or three times each day when you are both particularly busy, and watch what happens!
Why is it so powerful? Because your spouse knows you are tired and busy too. During this time of year, when we are all running in 10 directions per day (heck, per hour, even!) your actions signal “I know you have a lot on your plate and I want to help you.”
Sacrificing comfort for others besides spouses speaks volumes as well. Staying late to help a co-worker with a problem will enhance that relationship. Shoveling the neighbor’s sidewalk shows great thoughtfulness amidst chilly discomfort. Any sacrifice of your own personal comfort for others conveys the kindheartedness that relationships need to flourish.Any sacrifice of your own personal comfort for others conveys the kindheartedness that relationships need to flourish. Click To Tweet
Gift #3: Forgiveness
Finally, the third gift to better relationships is forgiveness. The world needs kindness and forgiveness now more than ever. I’m pretty sure that with the stress of the holidays, even if you have a great relationship you have probably gotten sideways with someone, snapped at your kids, or huffed at your spouse — or they snapped at you. Ask for forgiveness quickly, and give it quickly too. By choosing to neither be prideful or hold a grudge, we not only show kindness, we demonstrate to those around us exactly what the apostle Paul was talking about when he said, “be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Forgiveness and kindness are interrelated. If you need to forgive someone, but find it difficult to start, intentional kindness like giving of your time and sacrificing comfort can help you begin. A dear friend of mine has a three-word mantra that sums up these simple steps. “Obedience precedes emotion.” You may not feel like forgiving (or asking for forgiveness), but as you do simple acts of kindness for the other person, your feelings will ultimately obey your actions.You may not feel like forgiving (or asking for forgiveness), but as you do simple acts of kindness for the other person, your feelings will ultimately obey your actions. Click To Tweet
And here’s the awesome truth: ultimately, forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. You don’t want to be bound up with grudges at this time of year. Forgiveness will bring freedom from bitterness and expand your empathy and compassion for others. It allows your heart to love more easily.
Luxury cars — and all those presents under the tree — may look good, but the gifts of time, sacrifice of comfort, and forgiveness will last far longer and better your relationships for a lifetime.
Helping people thrive in life and relationships is Shaunti Feldhahn’s driving passion, supported by her research projects and writing. After starting out with a Harvard graduate degree and experience on Wall Street, her life took an unexpected shift into relationship research. She now is a popular speaker around the world and the author of best-selling books about men, women, and relationships. (Including For Women Only, For Men Only, and the groundbreaking The Good News About Marriage)
Her newest book, The Kindness Challenge, demonstrates that kindness is the answer to almost every life problem, and is sparking a much-needed movement of kindness across the country. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.