in: Advice, Character, Sunday Firesides

• Last updated: June 1, 2021

Sunday Firesides: The Moral Weight of Gifts

A pack of gift.

We’re coming up on three weeks post-Christmas, and chances are you still have one gift lying around that remains unopened or unused. You’ll probably let it sit on a counter or a shelf for a while longer, and then stick it in a drawer or cabinet somewhere, before finally throwing it away, perhaps years from now.

The fact that we go through this process of having to let the gift sit, before feeling okay with getting rid of it, tells us something important: gifts carry a moral obligation. Gifts elicit gratitude and gratitude elicits action. Saying “Thank you” doesn’t feel like quite enough; we feel duty-bound to use the gift in some way.

Sometimes we really have no use for the material gifts given to us by others; there’s just nothing to be done with them.

But there are other kinds of gifts — innate talents, qualities of personality — that not only are perfectly right for us, they are us. The neglect of these gifts may also cause us, or at least should cause us, to experience some guilt. Failure to use our unique gifts deprives us of the satisfaction that comes with fulfilling our potential, and deprives the world of their benefit.

Our gifts are not always big, obvious ones; they include a gift for making friends, helping people filter out BS to make a decision, injecting humor in difficult times, inspiring people to be better without words, imbuing everyday occasions with magic, being genuinely curious about others, radiating warmth, demonstrating resilience, and many more.

There are things for each of us to do, that no one else can do; this is what lends our personal gifts moral weight. Actively seek to discover what your personal gifts are, and rather than letting them collect dust, put them to good use.

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