My teenage years were full of rebellion and angst. This isn’t a new concept, and I bet we can all point out someone in this stage of life right now. But at the time, I thought I was unique in my struggles and alone in the world.
My parents were so kind and loving to me and tried to help me through this time of perpetual anger, but I was having none of that. In my mind, they were ignorant and naïve, and there was no way I would be like them. My mom hated when people wore all black, so I always painted my nails black as a way to “stick it to her.” I cringe and regret my actions now, but that’s what my attitude was at the time.
One Easter Sunday, my anger was at an all-time high for no particular reason. All I wanted to do was shut myself in my room and never come out. My parents were nagging me (this probably wasn’t true) and my siblings were being as annoying as they could be (this probably wasn’t true either), and I couldn’t believe I was stuck with such an infuriating family.
As soon as we came home from church, I threw open the car door and stormed off to my room, looking forward to alone time away from my family. When I opened the door to my bedroom, I saw the pastel Easter basket sitting on my pillow, seemingly mocking me with its happy colors.
I rolled my eyes and looked in the basket, expecting nothing but chocolate and jellybeans, but instead I found a little bottle of black nail polish, sitting cozily in the fake grass.
I immediately burst into tears, feeling overwhelmed with love. My mom, who had seemed to be so opposed to my lifestyle and attitude, had given me a gift of acceptance. To me, this black nail polish was more than just a basket filler—it was an expression of unconditional love. It was a way for my mom to say, “No matter what you choose and how you live, I will always love and accept you.”
Years later in life, I came across a scripture that reminded me of my mother’s love. In Matthew 7:11, it reads, “If ye . . . know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
I know my mother will truly be blessed for her present to me, and not because she just gave a gift, but because she looked past her own opinions, saw a need, and filled it. She selflessly gave because she knew it would mean the world to me.
Giving as He Gave
And that’s why we give presents. The Christmas season gives us an opportunity to give. We have a chance to deepen our relationship with others by looking for a need, thinking about the other person, and selflessly giving them a present to make them happy.
My mind turns to a BYU devotional given some years ago by Henry B. Eyring. This entire devotional is wonderful, and the principles in it align directly with my experience. Here is President Eyring’s observation about good gift givers: “There was sacrifice, but they made it for a greater return: our happiness. Most people feel deprived as they sacrifice to give another person a gift, and then they let that person know it. But only expert givers let the receiver sense that their sacrifice brings them joy” (Gifts of Love, December 16, 1980).
For the best example of a good gift giver, we can look to our own Heavenly Father and His gift to us: His Son’s Atonement. Henry B. Eyring continues in his devotional and testifies that,
Jesus gave the gift freely, willingly, to us all. He said, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself” (John 10:17–18). All men and women come into this life with that gift. They will live again, and if they will, they may live with him. . . . As you accept that gift, given through infinite sacrifice, it brings joy to the giver. Jesus taught, “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:7).
Christ gave this gift with all His heart. At much sacrifice to Himself, He gave His life for our joy, for our salvation. We can learn from His example that giving gifts is a way to show our love for one another.
So for this Christmas season, and for the rest of your life, I suggest following the wise counsel written in Matthew 10:8, which says, “Freely ye have received, freely give.”