Some of my greatest Christmas memories are getting presents as a boy. As children, my brother and I always looked forward to Christmas morning with great anticipation. We always had hopes for some new toy and were always disappointed to get socks.
And we always went first to the stockings. Those were fair game whereas the presents under the tree were off limits until after breakfast.
We didn’t like everything in our stockings. I still remember every year dumping everything out and then putting back in the shelled peanuts. If they were coated in chocolate instead of their natural shells, I would have kept them. But for a kid, shelled peanuts weren’t that exciting.
My, how times change! Now I’m appreciative if someone gives me a useful gift like socks. But I still don’t care about peanuts (unless they’re coated in chocolate, of course).
One other thing has remained the same. And I think it’s as true for many of us as it is for me. I still have some focus on getting.
Watch your focus
I’m sure everyone struggles with that. It’s the natural man prompting us to focus on self and our own comforts. And it’s so ironic to have that focus habitually during a season that celebrates He Who gave everything to us and for us.
Despite what the world would have us believe, the true joy in the season is found in giving. Just as I posted last week and many times previous, happiness is about giving your all to the right things.
Our focus will always be our reality. When we focus on getting, we chain our sense of fulfillment to the agency of others. Our reality might be pleasure or disappointment, depending on how others choose. But when we focus on giving, we can always be satisfied because our fulfillment depends only on the choices we make.
As recipients of the gift of agency, every day presents us a new opportunity to make a better choice. That better choice is always giving your all to the right things.
Watch your mouth
Shifting focus, however, can be easier said than done. If your focus is on getting, how do you switch it over to giving?
In addition to participating in activities that encourage us to think more outwardly, we can change our language. Our language indicates the way we think and see the world, so changing our language can help us think and see the world in different ways.
A common question asked after Christmas is “What did you get?” By replacing that question with “What did you give?” we help not only ourselves to think differently about Christmas but also others as well.
Consider the difference changing the word get to give produces. When someone asks you, “What did you get?” you can run through the memory of opening your presents around the tree. But when someone asks you, “What did you give?” can you answer as quickly? I know I would have to think awhile before answering.
I’d also feel a little ashamed if my answers were superficial like “I gave my mother a sweater.” Or “I gave my nephews a new bike.” So what? In 50 years my mother won’t need the sweater, and my nephews will be too big to ride the bike I gave them. What meaning will the memory of that gift really have?
I was greatly touched by the gift. Lots of people said my father’s mother was the best cook. I never thought her the best cook — that prize I gave to my mother’s mother — but she was a good cook. The gift of her recipes touched me because it allowed me to approach being with her by making and eating the food she made and ate.
That gift will mean something 50 and even 100 years from now. And my aunt who never married can take great joy in answering “What did you give?” with that.
Christmas is two days away, so please don’t rush to change everything if your gifts for others don’t meet that standard. And please don’t feel guilty about it. But please do think about asking yourself and others “What did you give?” more often. Asking “What did you give?” is definitely one of those right things to which you can give your all. And when you give your all to the right things, you can’t help but be happy.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and now I produce a weekly radio show to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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