Some women are hard to shop for. They just are. You weave through the store, muttering, “Nope. She won’t like that. Probably not that, either. Or that.”

Last Christmas, you spent far more than you budgeted on something that you had no idea whether she’d like. Then you held your breath and cringed as she lifted the lid, hoping…. praying….

But, no. Another swing-and-a-miss.

You could tell by her plastic smile and measured, “Thank you,” that she didn’t really like it. At least not enough to warrant the time, money, and thought you put into trying to please her. Again.

Perhaps the earth doesn’t even contain a gift that would please her! And after the futility of the past eighteen Christmas gift ‘fails’, why are you once again rambling through the crowded mall, biting your nails and pulling your hair out?

I can tell you this much: It’s probably not because you are just overcome with goodwill and generosity toward Ms. Hard-to-please. In fact, I’ll bet there will come a moment when you get good and mad at her. Maybe around the time you enter store #14?

Here’s the thing. Ms. Hard-to-Please most likely struggles (as I obviously do) with control. She has a deep desire to make things turn out well, and a very narrow grid for acceptable outcomes. Her expectations are high, and her tolerance is low.

Ordinarily, she’s overseeing every detail of her life, making sure everything turns out right. She knows exactly what she wants, and how to get it. So, the problem with this gift you’re placing in her lap, is that you don’t know exactly what she wants, and you don’t know if you got it!

But let’s relieve some of the pressure. Ms. Hard-to-Please didn’t get this way in a day, and no gift from your hand is going to magically melt any tension. So why become a frantic, fretty mess over her gift? Maybe she does have control issues, but you caving into her problem won’t help anything.

So, do this: Walk into a store, pick out something nice, wrap it up with a bow, and hand it to her.

Then, turn your focus onto your own heart.

Gifts are a way to bless others. We buy them–and even sacrifice to give them–because we want to be a blessing. But blessings can’t be forced. We can’t pressure someone to be delighted with our gift.

Sure, everybody loves to give the toy that is still being played with by January 1; or the new favorite sweater. And nobody loves to give the gift that almost gets discarded in a pile of wrapping paper. But when gift-giving becomes a source of anxiety, I need to ask myself, “What am I trying to control?”

God is the perfect example of a gift-giver. He gave his Son, his only Son, on Christmas. He longs for us to delight in his gift–to see the vast worth and value of his Son. But God doesn’t force himself on us. Instead, he draws us with his kindness.

This Christmas, let’s be godly gift-givers. Rather than obsessing over hard-to-please people, let’s be women who give generously–not just gifts, but ourselves. Let’s be the kind of wives and daughters  who laugh when the plans get mixed up, and the kind of moms and sisters who are gracious about interruptions.

Let’s not try to control Christmas. Rather than insisting on our way, or on certain outcomes, let’s do what Jesus did, and empty ourselves on Christmas.

For more thoughts on Christmas Gifts and the Control Girl, check out these posts:

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