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