The Mother of all re-gifting stories

I recently regifted a present. It was a journal someone had given me that I could not use. Another friend enjoyed journals, so instead of sending it to Goodwill, I regifted it. As I sat across from my friend, the gift bag between us, I thought of a terrible regifting story I had once heard. Then I thought about the journal I was about to give her. What if my name or a note to me was inscribed inside and I had missed it? I quickly told my friend it was a re-gift. In the end, the journal was blank and my friend could have cared less whether it was a regift or not. We laughed together as I shared why regifting made me so nervous. And now, I shall relate the same to you. This is the mother of all regifting stories.

It seems Jenny Smith, just recently married, received duplicate crystal bowls. They were very expensive, so Jenny set one of the bowls in her dining room cabinet for all to see and stored the other in the linen closet. A few days later she received an invitation to the wedding shower of a friend. The duplicate crystal bowl would be the perfect gift. After all, it sat snuggly in its original blue box surrounded by tissue paper. All it needed was a new satin ribbon.

The day for the shower arrived, and all the young friends sat in a circle together. Present after present was opened. Finally, the blue box was passed to the guest of honor. Ooos and ahhs rose from the group.

“It’s so beautiful, Jenny! You shouldn’t have bought me such an expensive present! Oh, I love it. I just love it!”

Jenny brushed aside the compliment. “My pleasure.”

Suddenly, the bride-to-be frowned. “What’s that?” she exclaimed indicating the bottom of the bowl. 

“What’s wrong?” asked Jenny. “Is there a crack?” Everyone leaned forward in concern.

“No,” said the bride-to-be. “There’s some kind of writing on here.”

“What? I didn’t see that.” A sinking feeling hit Jenny’s stomach. 

The bride-to-be read the bottom. “To Greg and Jenny. Congratulations & Best Wishes, The Thompsons.” Giving a little sniff, the bride-to-be stuck her nose in the air. “It’s engraved— to you.” 

Jenny didn’t know what to do. She swallowed hard as every eye waited for her reply. Was her face as red as it felt? “I apologize. I got doubles of the same bowl and wanted to share my luck with you. Let me have it. I don’t think the one at home is engraved. I’ll change it out.”

Jenny slunk away from the party, blue box in hand. She was utterly humiliated. Years later, when Jenny told a bunch of us girlfriends that story, she still turned as red as a tomato. We all had a good laugh at the horror of it and secretly thanked God that had never happened to us. I thought of that story when I regifted the journal, but I was lucky. I had given it to a real friend. What a shame that bride-to-be had not been kind enough to cover for Jenny. I mean, isn’t that what real friends do?

Narcissists and Gift Giving

Narcissists and the family systems they run act just like that bride-to-be. Cover for you? It’s far worse than that. Gift-giving becomes an opportunity for rejection and humiliation…on purpose.

“I can’t use that.”

“Why did you buy that?”

“Did they have this in red? I don’t like the brown.”

Trying to please unpleasable people hurts. Nowhere is this more obvious than gift giving. I had an antique manuscript page framed for a history buff family member only to be given it back a few years later. 

“We’re downsizing and don’t have room for this anymore.”

Did they not get it was a present from the heart? I had dragged that thing all the way from Europe. No, they didn’t get it.

Think about the times you have given gifts that have been received with a critical eye. Then think about those that were received as they were meant.

“This gift represents a part of me. And I’m giving it to you.”

“Oh thank you. I receive the gift of you with great joy.”

Nobody says it that way, but that is what should be communicated. And that, dear friends, is the point of giving gifts at Christmas. Receive the presents given to you this season and throughout the year with a grateful heart—whether it is what you wanted or not, or whether it’s a tacky regift. These are opportunities to encourage and express your love for the giver. Stop giving gifts to people who don’t know how to receive them and most of all, stop giving the gift yourself to people who only know how to hurt you. Defy trauma, and give gifts to people who embrace joy. 

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