Charitable Comrade: When a friend is overly generous

by epi on October 4, 2011

Q: My husband and I have a nominally close friend who recently gave my son a gift of a car.  He wrote the thank you note.  Now, he has given both our sons money to buy Christmas presents for us.  I am beginning to feel very uncomfortable.  What should I do?

A: Unless you suspect he has some ulterior motive, you can accept this generosity, or you can manage it. You could, for example, have your sons return the money, with thanks, or you could return it and say it is incredibly generous of him, but you are teaching your sons to learn to live within their own budgets so can’t accept because this gives them a different message. Of course the car is probably outside your son’s budget, but is a little different a situation. If you do suspect an ulterior motive, then you have to be firm and tell him that his generosity is overwhelming but you simply cannot accept any more gifts because you believe in returning such acts of kindness, in kind, and you simply won’t be able to do that. He would have to respect your wishes. Say it with warmth and thanks, but be firm, nonetheless.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Vanna Keiler October 5, 2011 at 12:07 am

Perhaps it’s just me, but I think the feeling of discomfort should have arrived with the arrival of the car. Money for Christmas gifts, unless it is in the thousands, would pale by comparison and should be an after-thought.

A “nominally” close friend deserves to understand where the friendship boundaries lie, and accepting an item such as a car, with a thank you note only, is not in my viewpoint, thanks enough, nor is it a great idea. For example, suspicions are arriving at the generosity of this “nominal friend”, instead of thoughts of gratitude. Frankly, I feel sorry for the nominal friend.

I think the proper and etiquettely-acceptable thing to do would be to refuse the car on behalf of the son (or have him return it, ideally, with thanks) and feel grateful that the family is in company with a very generous individual. If the nominal part turns into a genuine and longer-lasting friendship, then perhaps a son or daughter would feel more worthy of such a grand gift.


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