Entitlement, affluenza and we’re spoiled brats!

Christmas is coming! My friend Amy, on her blog Growing Like Trees, talked yesterday about gift giving. Or, in her case, not gift giving. Her post inspired the following.

I really love the Christmas season, but I’m terrible at receiving gifts. I only realized this a few years ago. If I get something that doesn’t pique my interest, or that I wasn’t expecting, I’m not very good at hiding my disinterest — or feigning interest. No one’s ever told me that I was being a jerk, I just happened to realize it after looking back at how I’ve handled Christmas gifts in the past ten years.

“Jerk” might be a strong self-accusation, I hope. I’m not the kind of person that gets giddy about things very often (to my wife’s chagrin). Even when I’ve received something I really like, I fear my thoughtful countenance risks appearing ungrateful after I tear through the tape and wrapping paper.

Then again, maybe my countenance doesn’t look anything like I’m imagining it. Thankfully, no one in the family owns a video camera. Regardless, I know that my heart has been ungrateful when it should have been giving thanks.


I am one of a very spoiled generation. Many of our parents and grandparents live comfortably, have expendable income for luxuries — luxuries that didn’t exist even 25 years ago — take vacations at will etc. etc. Little do we realize as youth that a lot of these people lived very modestly when they were our age. By our age I mean in their 20s and 30s.

In a culture super-saturated with objects to be bought, in a culture ubiquitously and unapologetically inundated with advertising, in a culture where we are referred to (and might even refer to ourselves) as “consumers,” we expect to have what we want now. Credit makes that possible.

And then causes the economy to collapse (when misused).

Frankly, I could go without any gifts at Christmas. The food, family, [good] decorations, mystery and so on are enough. Further, I tend to buy things I want, if I can afford them (i.e., not on credit), when I want. My father-in-law is the same way. It makes it difficult, I’m told, for others to buy gifts for us around this time of year.

On the flipside, I very much enjoy giving thoughtful gifts. Thoughtful gifts are generally not iPods and laptops. Sure, the tweens in the house will think these are great when wrapped, under a tree and tagged with their name. But thoughtful gifts are usually not LCD televisions and barbie dolls or Tickle Me Elmo.

Thoughtful gifts are one-of-a-kind, unique and tailored to an individual. An original painting is a great example, and yes you can afford one, especially if you’re already thinking of spending $300 on an iPod Touch or $900 on a Sony flat screen TV. You just have to know where to look. Handmade scarves or teapots are other examples, which you can find a plethora of on Etsy.

I’m just learning that I like to find or create thoughtful gifts, just like I’ve just learned that I’m a jerk about receiving gifts. One of the better examples of a thoughtful gift was an advertisement I framed for my brother. Three years ago my home group — cell group, life group, Bible study, call it whatever you want — spent a day helping a diabetic woman clean out her garage. The garage was full of a amazing stuff, a lot of which was moldy and falling apart and went to the dump. The rest went into a garage sale.

There were all kinds of decorative things she used years ago in a shop she owned in California. There were enormous boxes of outdated clothing. She kept saying there was probably a bong out there too. The friend orchestrating the cleanup wanted to find it and take it home, which I thought was hilarious since he was an elder in our church.

We didn’t find the bong.

Being a dumpster diver and prone to salvaging anything I find interesting enough, I kept a keen eye on the stuff headed for the dump. A large stack of catalogs, of all the things to keep around for 25 years, ended up being the golden ticket.

I took home a 1979/1980 retailer’s catalog. It was full of things like VCRs and Camcorders listed for ungodly amounts of money, and the back cover proudly presented an Atari 2600 console. I had one of these growing up that grandpa found at a garage sale. My brother was and is an avid gamer. The page displaying the game console was in great condition. I held onto it for months before the holidays rolled around when I cut the page out, framed it and gave it to Daniel for Christmas.

Opportunities like that have to be made, sought out, and even when you’re looking out for them they don’t always show up. It also helps to know a person well. Finding or devising the perfect gift for that second cousin you met ten years ago at a reunion will probably be exponentially more difficult than for your nuclear family members.

Two things in conclusion. First of all, to any friends or family who may have felt slighted by my spoiled brat reaction to a gift you gave me in the past, I’m sincerely sorry. I pray I’m a more gracious person in the future, starting this year. Secondly, this post introduces a two month series where I will recommend ideas to readers for unique and one-of-a-kind gifts.

The series will be titled Gifting, and will be published whenever I come across a good idea up until Christmas.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at pcNielsen.com.

3 Responses to Entitlement, affluenza and we’re spoiled brats!

  1. I am terrible at gift-giving. No object in the world can encapslate how I feel about anyone, so I agonize over the “right” gift. Since the perfect gift cannot be found I don’t end up getting one at all and then I beat myself up about being so stingy. Besides, I am also one who loves getting gifts, but I am constantly purging the things in my house. So, do me a favor and don’t give me a gift. Either way, the holidays are problematic for me. Can’t we just all get together and feast?

  2. Thanks for the post Paul. I’d forgotten to look for it until just now.

    I, at this point, love giving consumable gifts (food mostly), or useful gifts. It’s generally the type of thing I like to receive too, I guess. Something that doesn’t add to my clutter problem, lol!

    But not everyone agrees here, I’m learning. My MIL thinks a gift is worthless if it’s not sentimental. She was pretty disappointed at the massaging showerhead I gave her for her birthday. Should have saved it for DH 🙂 She always gives me un-useful gifts. I still try to appreciate them, and generally do.

    They just might turn into a good bloggy giveaway!

  3. Yeah, let’s all just get together and eat. I like Sarah’s idea.

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