Not too long after that she gave me something almost identical in return. Honestly, it was a bit confusing to me. I felt like the gift had been returned back to me! I couldn't help but think perhaps the gift was only offered to me in an attempt to keep things even. Sigh.
Have you ever offered to do something for someone in need and yet they declined the favor or said to you "You shouldn't have!"... and they mean it? I've heard someone explain "I don't want to be beholden!" My mother-in-law Jean was the one who explained the meaning of that word to me. She saw someone giving to her as more of a loan than a true favor... something that would have to be repaid in the future... with interest. Before then I'd not considered anyone would feel that way when offered a gift or given a favor.
Perhaps you have been given a gift by surprise and responded "But I didn't get you anything!" or found yourself saying "No one said we were exchanging gifts!" We then immediately brain-storm ways to "pay back" any perceived generosity. Turning gift-giving into more pain than pleasure. Truth is, we often have quite a few road blocks in our hearts keeping us from experiencing anything but!
Gift-giving gets the most complicated (ironically) at Christmas-time. The expectations are at an all-time high... as is the potential for disappointment. Many families have strict rules for all family members to follow. Unfortunately, when a family member does not stick to the plan... resentment, anger, frustration, or hurt often follows. This is not exactly how anyone wants to feel... especially during the Holiday Season!
Some feel driven to give gifts as if it is a competition. When giving they like to make sure their gift is bigger and better than the others. They seek acknowledgement and recognition for being generous and giving, when in reality they are self-seeking instead. They are most pleased if they outdo everybody else. Likely motivated by poor self-worth or identity they seek from others the value that should come from within. Fear of not measuring up themselves they over-compensate with giving, however often are left feeling more insecure than ever... as giving should be motivated not by fear, but by love.
Sometimes we may give too much and yet get little or nothing in return... we feel unloved and uncared for. We may even at times feel taken advantage of or taken for granted.We tell ourselves "I'm not going to give to them again! They don't deserve it!" We then cross them off our gift giving list... protecting ourselves from being hurt by them again. Hoping to collect from our offering the love we so desperately crave... only to feel bankrupted and alone.
Some may do well at receiving the gifts offered by others, but miss out on true blessings as they neglect to give. Receiving much from others they selfishly keep gifts for themselves. In time, these self-centered "users" and "takers" are often exposed. They end up feeling empty and unsatisfied in life without awareness that from taking advantage of other's generosity they take from themselves... and often end up anxious and paranoid as they hoard their treasures away.
I believe God show us a better way. Cheerfully. Openly. Lovingly. No longer giving for selfish reasons, we should ask Him for guidance in our gift-giving ways. We should trust Him to speak to us in our hearts for all matters... especially in the ways we give to others. When giving to others we will capture the joy if we always give cheerfully and eagerly with no expectation for even as much as a polite 'thank you' in return.