“Gifts are symbols of the value you place on the relationship.  When you act generously, people take notice. They’ll begin to feel appreciated, and in turn, they’ll want to pay it forward. It’s a natural inclination for us to want givers to succeed because we can appreciate the generosity that was shown to us.”
John Ruhlin

John Ruhlin has a business completely based on helping people give gifts better.  Most of his clients are larger corporations that want to more effectively wield the dollars they spend to honor clients and woo prospective ones.  In his recent book, “Giftology, The Art and Science of Using Gifts to Cut Through the Noise, Increase Referrals, and Strengthen Retention” he tells fantastical tales of extravagant gift giving.

I wanted to immediately dismiss him as both materialistic and manipulative, but the more you read (or listen to him) you hear the heart behind the man.  It is out of the incredible generosity he feels in the gift of his Christian faith, that he feels compelled to offer and encourage the same in others.

“Most people walk around feeling under-appreciated, not over-appreciated.”

There is an excellently produced set of videos and study materials explaining basic Christian apologetics called “For the Life of the World”.  One of their short video tells the entire gospel story in 2 short minutes.  It makes the case that everything is a gift (“All is Gift”)…the creation, the fall, and the restoration.  It turns out that receiving and offering gifts is pretty fundamental and important.

I love how Eugene Peterson explains the gift of salvation in his rewriting of the book of Romans:

“If death got the upper hand through one man’s wrongdoing, can you imagine the breathtaking recovery life makes, sovereign life, in those who grasp with both hands this wildly extravagant life-gift, this grand setting-everything-right, that the one man Jesus Christ provides?” 

I don’t know that I have heard salvation described in a more beautiful or powerful was than a "wildly extravagant life-gift”.

Back to Giftology.  John says that out of all that has been given for him, how could he do anything but build a life of giving to and honoring others.  He has all kinds of ideas and principles that guide his work (actually a book full of them).  But here are a few…

  • No strings attached - give to honor with no expectation
  • Practical - something that will bless them every day
  • Surprise & delight - unexpected and thoughtful
  • Out of season - don’t give when everyone else does (Xmas)
  • Less is more - give less, but nicer gifts
  • Do your homework - what would make them feel honored

With these ideas fresh in our mind, we were faced with giving a gift to a friend who was moving.  We are typically very frugal, but we wanted our friend to know how much we thought of him and wanted him to think of our appreciation often.  He was moving his family across the country on an adventure to start a life that included spending a lot more time out of doors.

We got him a Yeti cooler.  It was way beyond what we would normally budget for this type of gift, but the thought of him and his family loading that thing up for excursions, picnics, trips, and all manner of other adventures made me smile.  It is the kind of gift that will ultimately only cost us only $1 for each of the hundreds of times he will use it…and hopefully think about how much we appreciated him.

  • Does your family or company regularly provide gifts to others?
  • How much time do you spend thinking through what and how you will give?
  • Do you know anyone (have anyone working for you) that you think might feel under appreciated?
  • What could you do for them that would surprise them, honor them, and let them know how unmistakably you value them?