Thoughts on the Art of Grateful Receiving
There is an art to receiving gratefully. I'm still working on it, but it is definitely an art. When I think of the gifts I've received, I am always warmed at the gesture, whether it is a holiday or to celebrate an event. It is easy to receive gifts on such occasions, as it is something we are taught from an early age. Holidays are another time of receiving gifts which make it acceptable to receive without a great amount of introspection.
When an unexpected gift comes along... it can bring surprise and perhaps a twinge of uncertainty. What should I give in return? What is the expectation? The reason? One of my favorite authors and mentors Florence Scovel Shinn tells us that "Giving opens the way for receiving." I have not always been a grateful receiver, sometimes being uncomfortable. I've learned, however, that I can be a more generous giver by receiving more gratefully. In honoring the giving, we must graciously receive the gift. And in receiving, we allow ourselves a greater ability to give.
Receiving breaks down barriers to giving. We are often admonished to be generous in giving. “Pure love is a willingness to give without a thought of receiving anything in return.” and “The value of a man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving.” In response, I believe we must be grateful receivers in order to be more generous givers.
Do you often turn down offers of help? The offer of an open door, a hand in lifting a heavy object, assistance with a chore, a compliment on your appearance, a gift of money during hardship, the invitation to a meal, a gesture of physical touch when depression has gotten you down? Do you find it difficult to receive such gifts? Depression, fear, low self-esteem may cause us to become more guarded, contracted, vulnerable, unworthy or undeserving of such gifts. And in our reluctance to receive, we shut off the flow of goodness coming our way. What we don't allow in one area of our life, may cause other areas to decrease and we wonder why. We may be reluctant to give, feeling that we are giving up something, either our possessions or our time.
Is it easier to receive when emotion is not involved? Does one receive a windfall of money more easily if it comes from the lottery? Is receiving a raise more palatable than a gift of money? Acceptance of an award less stressful than receiving a compliment? Do you feel that a gift comes with a responsibility to reciprocate? Can you receive gratefully without expectation?
What about feedback? Do you receive advice or wisdom from others as a gift? Are your defenses up or are you open to hearing?
When love comes your way, do you receive it as a gift, unconditionally? Sometimes we may see the gift of love as a burden, a responsibility, something to be dealt with and controlled. We receive it with expectations of reciprocation. Or reject it because it may be imperfect, chaotic, or unwelcome.
In visualizing the flow of abundance, I see a continuous flow. I envision rivers as an example of abundance. In receiving, we allow tributaries of gifts to add to our abundance. We receive from many sources, increasing the flow. Other times, the drought of depression and fear cause the flow to decrease, making the level of our abundance to decrease or dry up. Objects may float into the river, causing a disturbance in the flow. By receiving and opening up new channels we allow the river to rise, move over and around, and flow more freely again.
How much have you kept out of your life by not consciously receiving the gifts that come your way? By gracious acceptance of the gifts that come our way, and in gratitude, we allow our river of abundance to flow freely. In that flow, we allow ourselves a greater ability to give unconditionally, in generous gratitude, without reservation.