Many times we give a gift and the first response of the recipients is, “You didn’t need to do that!” and I always feel a bit annoyed by the comment because I’m not so virtuous a person that I would give a gift I didn’t want to give. I know I don’t need to give a present, but sometimes I simply want to give a gift anyway. I think the comment ‘You didn’t need to do that.” comes from a niggling feeling that anytime a person gives a gift it is because they felt obligated to do it. This worry that the person giving felt they ‘ought’ to give a gift is part of our culture.
I gave a gift to a student I know who just became confirmed. This was not a relative or anyone whose connections would make it a gift I had to give or offend family members. I gave this present because I wanted to and not because I felt I ought.
The thought passed through my mind that I dislike that word ‘ought’ because it is used for so many many things we are expected to do culturally that are not actually essential. In our culture we have all these things that we are told we ‘ought’ to do. We ‘ought’ to wear the right clothing or go to the right schools or say the right things, or… and this is a lie our culture brings.
All that is essential is to do those things commanded by God. We ought to do what God has taught us to do. Weekly Mass, frequent reception of the Sacraments, prayer, giving of alms, and diligent fulfillment of our vocations. These we ought to do!
I ought to do what God has commanded. Everything else is optional. I don’t like the word ‘ought’ in any other context except in reference to what God wants of us.
I like it that my thoughts have progressed to the understanding of the difference between what I ought to do and what I may do if I wish.
It is nice. It makes doing nice things for others even more fun. I give gifts because I want to give them and not because of that word ‘ought’.
Dear Lord, thank You for making Church teaching clear so we can know what we ought to do. Thank You for guiding us to understand the difference between what is essential and what is optional. Thank You that I am free to give presents because I want to do so and not because I feel obligated. Amen.