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Not True: It’s Better to Give than Receive

gift giving

Mom and dad were eating at a restaurant. It was Sunday after church and they were sitting in a booth enjoying their lunch when a man they did not know came up.  “I just wanted to tell you how good it makes me feel to see the two of you together, enjoying your lunch.  Please let me treat you today,” he said as he placed two $10 bills on the table.

My dad is old school and at first there was no way he was going to accept money from the stranger.  He continued to protest until my mom gently took his hand and said, “Reagan let the man give us this gift. We’ll pass it on.”

My father took the man’s hand. Shaking it, he thanked the kind stranger and assured him he would pass his generosity on.  The man said he knew my dad would.

After the man left my mom and dad sat for a while thinking of what they could do to pass on the $20. I’m not sure they decided what to do, but I do know my father was reminded how good it feels to give to others.  And, he was also reminded of how important it is to allow others to experience the joy that comes from giving and having the gift graciously accepted.

Are you someone who receives as graciously as you give?  For many years I was not someone who was comfortable receiving.  I was fine and even ecstatic to give.  But when it came to receiving I would shut down.

I know where it came from. All of my growing up years I heard the adults in my life say, “You shouldn’t have” or “I wish you would not give me things” or “I don’t deserve this” or “it’s better to give than receive.”  In my parent’s generation, and even to a large extent today, we don’t encourage one another to receive with the same enthusiasm that we give.  Something within our collective dysfunction prevents us from see the importance of maintaining a healthy balance in giving and receiving.

When we say things like, I’m not worthy, you shouldn’t have, or I wish you wouldn’t have,  etc., we are in essence discounting the gift giver’s feelings.  When we do not accept graciously we are robbing the giver of the joy giving brings them.

It feels horrible to give and have someone tell us they are not worthy. That they wish we would not have given them the gift.  If they were unworthy we would not be giving a gift in the first place.  Unless we give with an agenda. But, that is not the type of giving that results in true joy.

When we give something to someone, a gift, a reference, our time, and we have expectations or stipulations on how our gift should be used or how someone “should” respond, we have given from ego. When we give from ego we will always find something to be disappointed about in how our gift is used, received, valued, and reciprocated. The only true gifts are those we give from our heart; without expectations or conditions. Heart (Love) gives simply to give.

Love also honors others by receiving as graciously as we give.  If we do not receive graciously we are not loving ourselves or those who are giving to us.

Is it easy for you to receive?  Or is receiving uncomfortable for you?  If so, why?  Were you also raised in an environment where “it is better to give than receive?”

While I completely understand how important it is for us to give generously of ourselves, our time, money, and caring, there is a fundamental imbalance in thinking it is better to give than receive.  I know this goes against what many of us are taught. But think about this.

If we’re only comfortable giving, if we truly think it better to give than receive, then how can we extend to others the courtesy and respect of receiving as freely as we want them to receive what we give? Love does not say no to a gift given in love. So, as with anything in life, there needs to be a healthy balance between giving and receiving. A comfortable balance is necessary to create the best life by honor the exchange of gifts in the relationships we have with others.

On the journey of writing my book and securing endorsements I asked a ton of people for their support.  At first this was hard to do because I had nothing of value to give to them in return.  Yet, anyone who truly knows what it is like to be in the position I was in, because they too had been there at one time themselves, readily jumped at the opportunity to support me.  To this day I must continue to ask friends, strangers, and people I meet for their assistance.  That is what self-promotion is all about.  There is no way I will ever be able to return to the countless numbers of people who support my dream.  The only option I have is to, like my father and mother, pay it forward.

If you are uncomfortable receiving, I challenge you to open your heart.  The next time someone gives you something just say, “Thank you.” Put yourself in their position.  Remember how it feels to give and be told, “You shouldn’t have or I don’t deserve this.” You don’t want someone who gives you a gift to feel bad because you cannot accept graciously.  It is love that lets you feel what it’s like to be the one who gives. It is love that also lets you feel what it is like to graciously receive.

Love yourself and others by accepting the gifts you receive with the same grace with which you give. Doing so is giving the gift of respect to those you give to you. Remember a joy-filled heart is one that graciously gives and receives.