Gifts Sincerely Given
The value of a gift is found not only in its effect, but also in its intention.
This formula for valuing a gift—of placing emphasis on the giver’s perception of it—is not novel. In fact, it’s recognized throughout our society. An artist’s favorite or most sentimental painting may sell for more than his most beautiful. A poor woman’s ten cent donation is seen as having more value than a rich man’s hundred dollars. Value is not simply equal to impact or action.
Yet this is a sentiment completely discarded when the gift being offered is someone’s thoughts and prayers, especially when it comes to political issues.
Society tends to wrongfully equate “thoughts and prayers” with doing nothing. This is particularly true of advocates for stricter gun control. In the minds of these advocates, thinking is not action and it is thus cast aside. Prayers are characterized as hoping but not caring enough to take steps for real change.
Some critics even created an online game to show what they believe is the worthlessness of thoughts and prayers: regardless of the amount of thoughts and prayers you give, the game ends by saying that the number of lives saved as a result amounts to zero. The message they are trying to communicate? Thoughts and prayers are worthless. They are believed to be a meaningless line spoken after a tragedy by people who, if they really cared, would take action.
While perfectly within their right to dismiss the power of prayer (however much I might disagree), people should not dismiss the gift of it. Rejecting the gift of prayer on account of one’s skepticism about its impact reflects a skewed understanding of the value of a gift. That is not to suggest that the recipient has to change their views on prayer in order to to make it meaningful. The gift is meaningful because of how it was given—with sincerity. As long as the person offering the prayer does so sincerely, it is a gift of value and thus should not be so quickly cast aside.
In fact, for a person convicted in their faith, keeping someone in their prayer is one of the greatest gifts they can give. It is their most prized art piece; it might be the ten cents they have to give. It is their belief that the best action originates in prayer.
This concept is recognized in the creation of art, in the giving of time, and in the donation of goods. Those who reject thoughts and prayers as worthless would do well to remember this. The gift of prayer deserves at least the same evaluation as that of any other gift. For a prayer sincerely offered is, for many people, the most valuable gift that can be given. That should not be dismissed.
Yet, it too often is. Because prayer has become equated to inaction, it is made to be the enemy of progress—it is perceived as insincere. But a call to action should not be, and does not have to be, a call to devalue prayer. A call to action does not have to say that what you are giving is worthless. The critics of “thoughts and prayers” can achieve their goals without devaluing faith, and, even more basically than that, without devaluing a gift that someone is offering.
Holly Bahadursingh is a senior studying political science, among many other things. She can be reached at Holly.Bahadursingh.firstname.lastname@example.org.