Several years ago, I had a gut-wrenching experience Christmas shopping at the mall. I noticed a deal of commotion across the corridor: A woman was being caught shoplifting. When confronted, she initially denied her actions. Then, when further pressed by the under-cover cop, she attempted to run away. As she was tackled to the ground, she began to scream and flail her limbs in an attempt to escape…leading to the necessitated use of pepper spray and a resisted arrest. The whole process was excruciatingly painful in every way! She was evidently pushed to the brink and desperate. As she was being taken away in handcuffs, I noticed the attempted stolen item, lying on the ground: A Statue of Jesus.
The holidays are an opportunity to show our loved ones how much they mean to us, but to what extent? Here are two tips to help you find more meaningful connection this holiday season (and hopefully keep you out of jail!):
Tip #1: Less is More. The real catalyst and inspiration for this article has been my listening to the book The More of Less, by self-identified minimalist Joshua Becker. You don’t have to be a full-fledged minimalist to enjoy the holidays. However, simplifying them will reveal what matters most to you and your family, whatever that may be.
Do you prefer fighting with chaotic masses of people over saving fifty bucks on Walmart’s Magic Disney Princess Carriage on Black Friday? Or, would you rather spend quality time bonding with your family; expressing gratitude at the dinner table for what you have already been given (I recommend a long-standing tradition of reading The Table Where Rich People Sit if you really want to get the water-works going!)?
Gifts are a meaningful part of the holiday season. They just don’t have to be the entirety of it. Gifts are a process of connection—especially with children! However, just like over-indulging in too much candy on Halloween, if children receive too many gifts, they may experience the ill-effects of a gluttonous, unappreciative hangover.
Giving can be a simple anecdote for the illness of over-consumption. Selflessness is an immensely valuable trait for children to develop—and has been linked through various studies to overall happiness and interpersonal success later in life. Your children will appreciate their own circumstance more if they have a chance to give of some of their abundance to other children who are less fortunate.
Less means more: more quality time, more money saved, more memories, more contentment, and most importantly to me, more time doing anything that is not wrapping presents!
Simplifying has other forms than just limiting shopping. It may be less cooking, less television watching, or less catalog browsing. Or, it could just be a conscious, intentional shift of focus to what matters most to you (and not letting the hurricane of not-needed items sweep you away into oblivion!).
Tip #2: Gifts May Not Be the Most Meaningful. This isn’t what the retailers want you to think. According to Dr. Gary Chapman, top-selling author and marriage counselor, gift giving is only one of the five ways we can show our loved ones that we care. However, there are four other primary ways to show love and affection: Acts of Service, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, and Quality Time.
It’s essential to know what’s most meaningful to your family and friends. If your wife’s primary love language is quality time, give her a coupon for a fully-planned date night, just the two of you, without the kids. If your husband’s is physical touch, place some cards for “free foot rubs” in his stocking this year. If your mother-in-law feels loved through words of affirmation, write her a note expressing your appreciation for her.
Typically, we show love to others by our own preferred way of feeling affection. This is natural; it’s the language we understand. However, our love language doesn’t always translate. Spend some time observing how your loved ones are showing you their affection to get clues as to what they appreciate. Or, you can really go out on a limb and just ask them! Kids make it VERY apparent what they want for Christmas, but adults tend to be more hesitant. Try asking your loved ones for a few ideas of what he or she wants. Then, you can pick a couple of them so it’s still a surprise and your chances for success increase to almost 100%!
Even though the retail stores don’t want you to follow these tips, keeping things simple and making people (not just things) a priority, will lead to a more meaningful and enjoyable holiday season.