Holidays and special occasions often mean buying material things for our loved ones. My son’s birthday is coming up and we are scouring the internet for the baseball bat that he wants. The focus on gift-giving pops up several times a year, and it is a nice way of showing our love for that person.

But the best gifts we can give our loved ones don’t come in the form of a wrapped package and they don’t come at specific intervals in time. The most meaningful gifts are intangible. They represent love itself and come in everyday moments.

The best gift for children

The number one goal of most, if not all, parents is for their children to be happy. If we could give them happiness we would. But only they control their happiness. However, we can give them the tools to be happy. You know how the saying goes that you can bring the horse to water but you can’t make it drink? It applies here too. My book, Good Morning, Life!, lays out the tools for being happy in the form of The Happiness Formula. One key element of The Happiness Formula is love. So, apart from giving my kids Good Morning, Life!, I give them the gift of love.

The meaning of love 

Love is one of the most important things we can model and teach our children. That is, how to love. To give the gift of showing how to love, we have to know and practice loving ourselves.

Unfortunately, in our society, we tend to limit the focus of love to romantic love. While romantic love is nice, love in a broader sense is for everyone and has a larger and more impactful potential. Romantic love can be a nice offshoot of our ability to love more broadly.

The deeper and most impactful love that is tied closely to our happiness is our ability to open our hearts and care for ourselves and other human beings unconditionally. The best love we can cultivate is to see, value, and love ourselves and others for simply being. When we accept ourselves and others, despite our imperfections, we both solve and avoid a lot of problems in life. Accepting that we are all on a journey and we haven’t yet mastered many things, including communication skills, which are oftentimes at the root of interpersonal issues, helps us love.

As Jesus said of his enemies, “Forgive them for they know not what they do.”

This attitude helps us love, despite challenges.

This takes practice. We have egos that make us do many unwise things. But by loving each other anyway, we give each other a chance to correct ourselves and become more fully able to meet our respective potential. 

“Love is the only way to grasp another human being in the innermost core of his personality. No one can become fully aware of the very essence of another human being unless he loves him. By his love he is enabled to see the essential traits and features in the beloved person; and even more, he sees that which is potential in him, which is not yet actualized but yet ought to be actualized. Furthermore, by his love, the loving person enables the beloved person to actualize these potentialities. By making him aware of what he can be and of what he should become, he makes these potentialities come true.”

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

The practice of loving

We all have different personalities and we naturally may enjoy some people’s company more than others because our energy meshes well with them. That’s fine and expected, but it doesn’t mean we can’t love everyone. We can show love for people by respecting them for who they are and where they are in their journey of life.

Imagine if we all practiced love in this way. What a great place this earth would be!

When we show love, we model and teach our kids and the people around us how to love. By doing this, we pass it on, whether we realize it or not.

It warms my heart when I see my kids loving each other and those around them. I feel this is the best gift I can ever give them and that they can give. Love is contagious. It’s a beautiful thing.

My anniversary gift

Back to the topic of romantic love and gift giving, as my husband and I just celebrated our twenty-first wedding anniversary. Overall, it was a typical day. My husband and I went for an evening walk together after a day of our usual family activities. There were no material gifts exchanged and we were both utterly satisfied.

Most days we end up telling each other we love one another and showing appreciation in little ways, such as making meals, cleaning dishes, and tidying up for one another. We take regular walks together and express appreciation for each other’s skills and contributions to our family. This demonstration of love is our daily gift to each other. It doesn’t come in fits and spurts but in steadfast support and encouragement as we navigate life together as partners. It also doesn’t cost a thing, which is a tangential benefit and a nice bonus nowadays with the increasing cost of living. Without exchanging material gifts it also means we aren’t adding waste to our environment.

Love is a gift for the world

There is a reason that love is central to most movie plots, storylines, and songs. Love has a power beyond what it might seem by the narrow confines we put around it. Viktor Frankl, neurologist and holocaust survivor recognized it and eloquently wrote:

“For the first time in my life I saw the truth as it is set into song by so many poets, proclaimed as the final wisdom by so many thinkers. The truth – that Love is the ultimate and highest goal to which man can aspire. Then I grasped the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart: The salvation of man is through love and in love.”

Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

The world can use this gift of love as we navigate climate change, wars, and geopolitical crises. With a fresh mindset about love, let’s start giving it more freely to those we encounter on our journey through life.


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