The Fine Art of Receiving

How do you feel, when you find something that would make the perfect gift for a good friend?  If you’re like me, you do a little dance of joy, thrilled at having found such a great gift.  I always love imagining the delighted look on the recipient’s face when they see it for the first time.  Have you ever bought a gift that you’re so excited about, that you decide to give it to the person early, well before Christmas or their birthday, because you just can’t wait to see their reaction?

Now I’m going to flip this around.  What if you were the potential gift recipient in the above example?  How do you normally react when someone gives you a gift, particularly if it’s unexpected?  Do you play the “No!  You shouldn’t have! Why? You shouldn’t have spent your money on me – what did you do that for?” game? Where on earth did we learn how to behave like this?  Who was it that decided that behaving in such an awkward, ungracious fashion was somehow the most noble, socially appropriate way to “receive” a gift?

I’ve got this subject on my mind today, because this past weekend I took a cherished elderly friend out to celebrate her birthday. She’s a wonderful, hard-working woman who hasn’t known much rest or luxury in her life. Sadly, she wouldn’t let me treat her to dinner. I still loved my time with her, but it would have been much more enjoyable if she’d just let me spoil her, without resisting.

When you want to give something to someone, don’t you want them to just receive it with delight?  Or do you prefer to do battle with them until they “give in” and take it?

Put yourself in the “giver’s” shoes and see how it feels.

If someone wants to pick up the check at a restaurant, let them.  Don’t shout “no!” and try to snatch the bill out of their hands, or try to physically block them from placing their credit card on the table.

Does this sound familiar?  I used to do that, all the time.  For some reason it’s always been a real challenge for me to receive from others.  I felt that if I let someone treat me to something, I was being a bad person, taking advantage and not pulling my own weight.  I would make such a fuss against their wanting to pay the bill that I would sometimes realize afterwards  that I’d forgotten to say “thank you”, once all the fuss had subsided and they had finally paid for lunch.

When someone gives you something, they’re actually doing it more for themselves than for you.  As the Bible says, it’s better to give than receive.  Receiving something feels good, but knowing that you were the giver of something wonderful to another person is so much more meaningful, and satisfying over the long term.

If someone offers to help you, let them.  If someone pays you a compliment, accept it.  Don’t tarnish the experience for them by arguing, or insisting that you’ll have to pay them back later in some way.

Let people give to you.  It’s easy:  just smile, and say “thank you”.

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