As Christmas approaches we begin to hear the familiar stories about gifts, traditions, and what is appropriate or not regarding gifts. I remember growing up hearing horror stories about people passing unwanted gifts to others or, as accurately described in popular culture, “re-gifting”. The argument against this practice centered around being cheap, ungrateful, inconsiderate, and deceptive. The general feeling in those days was that re-gifting was a slap in the face of the original giver, and a blatant sign of ingratitude or disrespect for the time and effort that person put into giving the gift. Certainly, even today, most would agree that giving away a personalized or meaningful gift is improper form, as would be passing over a used or dusty gift from the past.
However, a review of more recent thoughts regarding this practice shows a growing sentiment away from total negativity toward measured acceptance and even praise of this behavior. The general sentiment seems to be that passing off an unwanted gift to someone who might enjoy or use such a gift more is a noble way of avoiding waste and spreading enjoyment. It seems that, as long as good taste and practicality is observed, many people today do not automatically shun re-gifting if the recipient will benefit or enjoy a gift which would otherwise remain unused.
The Magi brought the infant Jesus gifts in the form of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and some joke that the latter two gifts were certainly re-gifted since gold would be the preferred gift. In all seriousness, gifts were part of the very first Christmas because the Infant Jesus is a gift from God in every sense of the word. Moving forward, Our Lord’s entire ministry on earth was a continuous gift as the perfect example of loving service and care for others that we are all called to follow. Saint Therese the Little Flower once stated that she wanted to come before God with empty hands which were free of all the gifts God had given her which had been offered to others. We know from the famous Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30) that we are expected to turn God’s investment in our talents into a profit of service to others.
Simply put, we re-gift when we use the gifts God has given us to serve others. Our abilities and skills do not belong to us but, rather, are merely temporary possessions which we must use to bring God’s touch to others. The singer too lazy to sing for others or, worse, who merely uses her talent to gain personal fame and material possessions without helping others is ignoring the purpose of that God-given gift. The excellent public speaker or writer who uses his talent to spread harm or create hatred is certainly misusing his talent.
At the end of the day, then, following Christ is re-gifting for the glory of God, and you are certainly welcome to pass that thought to others.
Gabriel Garnica, 2016