Many years ago, when I was a lot younger than I am now, I would do things for people that I thought were “helpful,” Today, as I am faced with people who are trying to be helpful to me, I wonder whether, in the past, I was being helpful or just plain controlling.
I used to offer to do things for my brother Bill. He had an enviable collection of die-cast cars which he had on display all over his house. They were on tabletops, chairs, stools, and the fireplace mantle. They were all dust-covered. One day when I was out shopping, I noticed a glass-fronted bookcase that I thought would be ideal for his collection, so I mentioned it to him the next time I visited.
“Where would I put it?” asked Bill.
As I looked around his cluttered house, I suggested replacing some furniture with the cabinet. He surprised me by turning down my offer.
Was I being helpful or just controlling?
On another visit, I told him I had seen a nice-sized television that would fit perfectly where his current tiny TV sat but was much larger.
Surprisingly he turned that offer down too. Since I hadn’t asked him to pay for the TV, I was puzzled that he would turn down the TV he could see better.
Again, I was trying to be helpful, but was I just being controlling?
At least I asked first and did not buy these things and expect him to be pleased with my unwanted gifts.
Today I live in a seniors retirement facility where practically all of my life is controlled by the staff. Only one thing I control and that is what I eat. I order groceries delivered to my door so I can prepare meals and snacks I want to eat. It is a small apartment, so I have a limited amount of cupboard and refrigerator space.
A woman has decided to be helpful to me and brings me food, books, and DVDs every week. I realize she is just being helpful. But when I asked her to stop bringing me food she said, “It makes me feel good to bring you gifts.”
How do you respond to that?
I cringe at the thought that she might offer to rearrange my cupboards and refrigerator so there would be more room for her gifts.
That’s probably what I would have done.
So, I am just judging her by myself?
I find myself resenting her bland assumption that I would be pleased with her gifts. She is a sweet person, so I find myself feeling guilty when I refuse her gifts.
Gift Giving Can be a Control Issue
Whenever we receive a gift, we are expected to be grateful and say thank you.
Gifts can take the form of food, books, DVDs or any number of things.
Suppose we don’t want that particular gift? Are we still supposed to be grateful?
Especially when it comes to food, gift-givers can go overboard.
Have you ever noticed that most gifts of food are sweet? Or if it is a prepared dish, it is high in carbohydrates such as a casserole or breads?
Suppose you don’t want the candy, cake, cookies, donuts, or casserole? Are you still supposed to smile and say, “thank you?”
In essence, the gift giver is controlling what you eat, read or watch.
Your only defense is to throw away or try to give away these gifts without the gift giver knowing anything about it.
Isn’t that sad?
Unwanted gifts can be a burden, not a joy.
There are many reasons why a person may not be happy with an unsolicited gift.
If the gift is food, the receiver may be on a special diet that does not allow that food.
If the gift is a book, it may not be on a topic the receiver is particularly interested in. The same goes for DVDs.
The gift-giver is saying non-verbally, “Here is what I think you should be eating, seeing, reading, and/or watching. “I know you will like it.”
Since not everyone is alike and since not everyone has the same likes and dislikes, this bland assumption that the receiver will like what the giver likes is presumption.
There are specified times in the calendar year when gifts are expected to be given, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, and Birthdays. Stores cover their expenses on these holidays. They also see many returns of purchases from those who did not want the gift, or it was the wrong size or color.
The issue is one of decision-making. Who decides what someone will want or like? The giver or the receiver?
If you want to give someone a gift, make sure it is one they will want, need, or like before giving it.
Mentally competent elderly want to make their own decisions. Making decisions for the elderly, just because they are elderly, is controlling and demeaning.