The Art of Giving and Receiving

Read in :03 “Gracious acceptance is an art – an art which most never bother to cultivate. We think that we have to learn how to give, but we forget about accepting things, which can be much harder than giving…. Accepting another person’s gift is allowing him to express his feelings for you.”
~ Alexander McCall Smith

“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” It’s a familiar and well-worn phrase, right? You might have heard it in church where it’s often used with the hope of increasing contributions. Giving feels great but receiving? That’s another story! I realized I have a pesky flaw that always flares up around Christmas. I’m hopelessly awkward when it comes to the acceptance of compliments or gifts no matter how touched I am or how grateful I feel.

I received two completely unexpected gifts this week that left me a blubbering mess. Betty Streff was speechless. Can you imagine that? Both gifts were heartfelt and generous and I love the people that gave them to me. Why did I react all squirrely like I did? I decided to find out if I have company and I do. Lots of it, in fact!

Giving and taking

Some people are takers, we all know a few. They’re happiest when they get the biggest piece of the pie and really don’t care if someone else gets none. We call them Scrooge and selfish and it’s for sure they end up on Santa’s naughty list. Oddly enough they seldom seem to feel bad about it.

Other folks are givers. Santa smiles at them approvingly and so do we. They believe it’s wrong to be self-centered and sometimes squirm when they’re on the receiving end of kindness or generosity. Sadly, the discomfort they feel robs them of joy and what’s worse, can tarnish some of the glow the giver might have enjoyed.

Brené Brown is a wonderful and wise writer. Here’s her take on why this is a problem. “Until we can receive with an open heart, we’re never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.” Do you see that? We’ve got to recognize the real reasons that givers operate the way they do. What drives givers to give and why are they sometimes so bad at receiving? It’s an interesting question.

What’s the solution?

Three words, I believe. Humility, gratitude, and grace. Givers are in the driver’s seat when they’re giving. It creates an illusion they are in control of a situation. It’s very difficult for givers to ask for help because it can pull back the curtain on the truth. There are times they’re tapped out and need help themselves. It can be very humbling.

Givers always want the scale to be tipped in their favor so they feel that they don’t owe anyone more than they can repay. They may not be able to give back as generously as they think they need to and that may leave them feeling uneasy. I trip over this one a lot.

Here’s the true answer. Our faith calls us to be “one body in Christ.” That means we’re each part of an eternal circle of giving that includes receiving on occasion. It expands when we offer what we give with no thought of repayment. When the circle comes around and we receive, the only thing we are to offer is gratitude.

The most wonderful part of all? It’s a circle. No beginning, no end. There’s a certain magic to it when we understand the way it’s supposed to work. Blessings to you all you beautiful givers out there, I love you.

“Giving without expectation leads to receiving without limitation.” ~ Charles F. Glassman




    • Betty Streff

      I’m such a work in progress LOL. I have to keep chipping away at all my rough edges!! Check out my new “About Betty”.

  • Grant Newbold

    Betty. Thanks for this great and timely message. In my psychology practice I have repeatedly found that those who give freely and often but don’t receive with grace and gratitude frequently have a very difficult time with the aging process. As we age we must be open to receiving more because it is our time of need. Of course, none of us wants to be seen as weak and in need of being helped. Sometimes I have been able to help these people by suggesting that when they allow others to help them they are actually giving that other person the “gift” of meaning. So even the act of receiving is also an act of giving, if you look at it from that perspective. I think the “gift of meaning” that comes from letting others help you is very real and very important. Thanks again Betty. Doc Newbold

    • Betty Streff

      Wow I guess we need to keep working on the ability to be a gracious receiver! Thank you!

  • Pat McGill

    Great read during this time of year…I truly believe in the 110/0 Principle.
    In giving we give from the audacity of our hearts out of love, service and caring…When
    “Givers Give” they create endorphins in their bodies, and have the “Giving Glow” that comes
    when there are not strings attached…and expecting nothing, nada, zip, zero in return.
    Blessings to Givers in this World Today….

    • Betty Streff

      Thanks Pat! You always provide such insightful perspective on things! Appreciate your comments.

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