With the holidays approaching, no doubt many of us are making a list and checking it twice. Ensuring that we find just the right gift to give to those we cherish in our lives.
Yet the giving is only half of the equation. We’ll undoubtedly be receiving gifts, too. And while many of us are world-class givers, can we say the same about receiving?
“It’s the act of receiving the gift that gives it value,” says psychotherapist Ariel Garten. Dr. Neill, a psychologist and author in British Columbia, calls true giving and receiving a “spiritual economy.” Giving, he notes, is not to be confused with “taking.” He explains that “the person who can accept a gift with grace and without any thought of obligation can then best give without conditions.”
And yet, giving gets the glory. Receiving? Not so much.
How often do we receive a gift with some sort of deflection: “It’s too much,” we scold gently. “You didn’t need to,” we point out. “You shouldn’t have,” we admonish.
Yet in being poor receivers, in refusing to accept graciously, we diminish the gift. It becomes a burden — too much or too little. Too … complicated.
Of course, sometimes we struggle because the gift is … well … thoughtless. We feel insulted. Hurt. Sometimes even resentful. Remember that bitter taste when forced to say a dutiful thank-you for the wool skirt we got for Christmas instead of the figure skates we longed for?
Sometimes the gift doesn’t reflect who we are and we feel unseen. Sometimes it comes with so many metaphorical strings that to accept it feels like a deal with Faustus. And yet … is it possible to disentangle ourselves from the complications and accept the simple gesture therein — the gesture to offer us … something?
Is it possible to become a better receiver? To accept all gifts with true grace? To feel transformed by the giving, if not by the gift? To do away with the feelings of unworthiness, guilt and powerlessness?
We can try. To receive a compliment. To receive someone’s offer to pay for lunch. To receive anything fully, without a kneejerk feeling that we must reciprocate, thereby turning it into an economic transaction.
This holiday season, let’s complete the spiritual transaction … and fully and purely receive all that is offered. By doing that, we are giving the gift of acceptance.