Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Gifts Do Not Need to Be Things

DEAR HARRIETTE: I stopped giving holiday gifts years ago. I go to visit friends and family throughout the season, but I have no children and stopped thinking it was essential to dole out money for gifts and go broke just to be like everyone else. For the most part this is a nonissue for me.

I have one friend, a new friend, who insisted on getting me a gift. She even gave it to me before Christmas. Now it's kind of awkward because I didn't get her anything, and I don't want to have to either. I feel certain that I told her my policy. I don't want her to think that I don't care about her. How can I graciously handle this? She is not a girlfriend, but a nice new friend. -- Giftless, Seattle

DEAR GIFTLESS: You are not the only person who does not give out tangible gifts during the holidays, although it may seem like it. You also do not have to follow someone else's rules. If this woman were your partner and really wanted to exchange gifts, that would be a different matter. Still, you obviously care for her. You do have options. You can get her a lovely card with a fitting sentiment about how you feel about her. There are so many options these days, you are bound to find something special.

You might also choose to do something with her. A gift does not always have to be a thing. You could invite her to go to a museum with you, or you might invite her out for drinks. Think of an affordable yet fun activity that you can share that gives you both the gift of time.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I was just reading your column, and a comment you made to a writer brought to mind a great quote I heard years ago that you may be able to use for those with bitterness and grudges. Your reply to "Mad All Over Again" was, "Holding a grudge against her does you no good."

I love this quote from an old man. I memorized it immediately and have applied it in my life several times: "Bitterness does more damage to the vessel in which it is stored than to the vessel into which it is poured."

Isn't that a good one? Thank you for your column and good, levelheaded advice. -- For Forgiveness, Memphis, Tenn.

DEAR FOR FORGIVENESS: I love your note and its sentiment. It is so incredibly difficult for people to tear themselves away from hurt and anger when someone close to them does them wrong. Yet, holding on literally erodes the person who cannot let go or forgive. I believe that the battle to release the anguish rather than drown in it is one of the most important battles that one can wage. We are all fallible. Perhaps by practicing forgiveness of ourselves for our faults and misdeeds, we can become more likely to forgive others.