The Practice of Receiving

“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.” – Alexander McCall Smith

In my work I facilitate a lot of Love Lists – lists of reasons why someone loves someone else. It is a simple idea but one of the most profound gifts to give and receive.

It isn’t uncommon for me to hear feedback from recipients that they had a hard time reading through the entire list of loving things that their friend or family member wrote to them.

“I just felt uncomfortable.”
“It seemed like too much.”
“I didn’t feel like I deserved it.”

Whenever I hear these kinds of statements, I understand. And yet they make me so sad. The reason I chose the quote above by Alexander Smith is because I think we could all use a big dose of “learning to receive.”

Also, it is the season of Thanksgiving and a time when we’re invited to focus on our gratitude. It’s a prime time to think a little bit about the connection between being able to receive and feeling grateful. They go hand in hand like mashed potatoes and gravy.

If there is something inside us that keeps us from feeling worthy of receiving or that keeps us focused on “This isn’t the right thing, this isn’t enough, I want that over there.” then it is kind of hard to get ourselves in the gratitude groove, right?

That’s where awareness comes in. We can choose to receive in a new way by being more present to ourselves and the moment. Are we conscious about the thoughts that are dropping into our heads or the emotions that are trickling through our bodies that may be blocking our ability to receive the life we have and the gifts that are being given to us all the time?

Being human typically means that we have that old “Squawky Polly” yammering in our heads that can keep us out of the moment. For example, were you ever with a friend and she offered to help you out with something you were struggling with? Suzy says, “I will drive you to that appointment. I know it is stressful for you to navigate the freeways. It’ll be easy for me.” You are standing there in front of Suzy and all these thoughts start bouncing around in your head: “When Suzy’s car broke down last week, I didn’t even offer to help.” “I’m not as good of a friend as she is; I shouldn’t accept this.” “I am such a burden to people around me.”

Instead of smiling widely, giving Suzy a big hug, and saying “Thank you, that would be wonderful.” you are flooded with yucky feelings of unworthiness or guilt. And there’s poor Suzy, left with her hands outreached to you, offering a gift that is not being received. That, too feels yucky!

By turning your attention to the Squawky Polly ramblings, you are depriving Suzy of a moment of joy when her heart is open. It is almost like closing the door on her, isn’t it? That’s the thing to remember – you want to do everything you can to receive because the receiving is a gift in itself!

{A short pause for reflection…!}

I don’t want to alienate anyone here, but I want to say that I don’t like the belief that “It is better to give than to receive.”  In my experience, there is no difference between giving and receiving. They are like the infinity symbol, feeding into one another for all time.

Here’s another easy example: I give you a heartfelt compliment. You take it in fully, smile, and say “Thank you.” I feel your heart. You’ve gifted me by your presence and acceptance of my gift. I feel like I have more than I did before I gifted you. You feel like you have more than you did before I gifted you. We both leave, feeling elevated. We share our joy and good energy with someone we pass. They share the joy with someone they pass. The giving and receiving echoes into infinity.

I believe that is how it works.

But let me remind you of what happens when I am not able to receive…

What happens when you are there in front of me, gifting me with flowers or a hat or a kind word or a touch of your hand, and I turn away from your gift because something untrue in me tells me I don’t deserve you/it/kindness? A boulder drops on our lovely infinity of giving/receiving and breaks it. Everything comes to a halt.

So here we are, entering the season of Thanksgiving, many of us thinking a lot about gratitude. Can we peel back a layer and look at all the gratitude that might be denied to us because we are turning away from so many moments of receiving? Will you choose to be more present to the gifts that are being offered so you can receive them and let your gratitude be a gift to everyone around you?

Extra credit: If you offer a kind gesture or gift to someone and they have trouble receiving it, will you gently share this message with them? Can you lovingly let them know that their “Yes, thank you.” is a gift in itself?

Let’s make this giving-receiving infinity the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving table!

Sherry’s mission is helping people find creative, intentional and impactful ways to celebrate life and to express love for family and friends. Visit her website or email her to say hello at Sherry’s book, “Say it Now; 33 Creative Ways to Say I Love You to the Most Important People in Your Life,” is now available on Amazon. Join Sherry’s free 5-day challenge, "Olly Olly Oxen Free: Permission and Belonging," here.

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