The Holiday Season has always been about giving. It is reflected both in terms of gifts given to family and friends and increasingly in terms of generosity of action and spirit to those we love and to those in need.
What about the other side of giving–What about receiving?
Do you give in a way that makes receiving a welcomed experience?
Do you receive in a generous way?
- Whatever impressions we have of people being selfish or self-serving, the reality is that we love to give.
- Over the years many more people have told me that it’s easier for them to give than to receive.
- New Brain research bumps up against survival of the fittest to inform us that we are “ wired to give” in order to survive.
- Developmental research finds an altruistic quality even in babies who at 12-16 months will choose the puppet that is helping over the puppet that is hurting.
- For centuries and across diverse religious beliefs, we have espoused giving as essential to goodness.
For it is in giving that we receive. (St. Francis of Assisi)
They who give have all things: they who withhold have nothing.” (Hindu quote)
The Role of the Giver
While there is little doubt that true love and generosity motivate anonymous donations, the efforts of volunteer work, exhausting child and elder care and even hours of shopping to buy the perfect gift- we often feel a greater sense of control when we are giving than when we are receiving.
- We love giving advice far more than receiving it.
- We take great pains to give directions (GPS or not) although we would never ask for directions ourselves.
- It is well known that caregivers have great difficulty being the ones receiving care.
Receiving is Complicated
Although receiving can be wonderful, it is complicated.
- For some, attachment and the essentials of care and love have always been given, so receiving is easy to trust and enjoy.
- For others being the recipient connotes need, dependency and expectancy. It is avoided because it has too often been associated with anxiety and disappointment. From compliments to cookies – receiving is stressful.
- For many, receiving becomes difficult when the giver, the gift or the gesture is something they are not comfortable or prepared to accept. It stirs the dilemma–Aren’t we always supposed to be grateful?
Giving and Receiving as Counterparts
The fact is–whether we prefer giving and avoid receiving or the reverse, giving and receiving are not separate events. They are counterparts that are inextricably connected. There really is no true giving without receiving and no receiving without giving.
What does this mean?
The real joy comes in the mutually shared moment of exchange. That doesn’t mean equal gifts or equal efforts. It just means that when the offering–be it a gift, a feeling, a compliment, or a meal is offered freely with care and love and is received in a way that sends back a gift of delight, joy, and acceptance. The exchange and the benefits are mutual. A gift has been given and received.
What Makes Mutual Exchange Possible?
Using two perspectives, Self-Reflection, the consideration of self, and Empathy, the consideration of the other, can enhance the mutuality of giving and receiving. Consider taking a closer look at yourself as giver and receiver.
Do You Give In A Way That Makes Receiving Easy?
- Can you give without expectation? – Is it still a giving experience for you if there is no thank you in the way that you had hoped?
- Must you give the most or the best?
- Can you give what the other wants rather than what you want to give?
- Can you be the first to smile, lend a hand or make an overture without scorekeeping?
- Can you allow the other to join you in planning or picking his/her gift?
The manner of giving is worth more than the gift. (Pierre Corneille)
Do You Receive in a Way that Makes Giving Possible?
- Are you so selfless that you are unable or unwilling to receive gifts?–This may make you untouchable.
- Are you able to appreciate the giver’s intent such that the reality of the actual gift doesn’t matter?
- Can you receive help from those you usually help—children, students, patients or neighbors? Do you allow them the gift of giving?
- Can you accept the gesture of a gift in the moment without creating shame–even if you cannot accept the actual gift or it’s expectations?
- Can you welcome help as generosity rather than implication of dependency or need?
This Holiday Season – Enjoy the Mutuality of Giving and Receiving
God has given us two hands, one to receive with and the other to give with. (Billy Graham)
Listen to Dr. April Benson on Psych UP for a Re-consideration of Shopping and Giving during the Holidays