The Gift of Receiving


For many of us who have already won the lottery of life (see last month’s blog), it is more difficult to receive than to give. We expect to give, and we do. We give to our favorite charities, to politicians, to disaster relief funds, to our children. Giving is a part of the wealthy and celebrity way of life. Just think of Oprah’s audience surprises – a trip to Australia! And in 2006 Warren Buffett, the world’s second-richest man, donated 85% of his fortune to the Bill Gates Foundation.

The size of the gift doesn’t matter. The lavishness of the rich is balanced by the gift of the widow in the New Testament whose generosity was praised because she gave all that she had, her last two mites, to the temple. I was impressed with Precious Ramotswe’s idea in Alexander McCall’s Smith  No. 1 Ladies  Detective Agency’s series that if you have a job, you should hire someone to clean your house because you can afford it. It shares the wealth. It keeps money circulating. It’s fulfilling to share our blessings.

Receiving is just as important as giving. I bet we all have generous friends who won’t accept a gift. Refusing a gift doesn’t much harm the intended recipient, but it surely affects the giver because it keeps her from experiencing the benefit of generosity. It also keeps her goods from being put into circulation and benefiting society as a whole.

When we refuse to receive, we’re saying, “There is nothing you can give me that I could want or use. I have everything I need. I have so much I won’t take anything from you.” Or even, “I have more than you.” When we don’t accept a gift, we stop the flow of giving and receiving, and we rebuff the potential giver. We make the giver feel small and insignificant.

When we accept a gift, we allow the giver to feel abundant. We allow the giver to participate in something bigger than herself.  I remember how proud I was the first time I bought a mother’s day gift for my mom with my own money. It was a pin that encircled the word “Mother” in gold. It cost 50 cents. I felt so grown up giving it to her. Giving allows the giver to participate in the flow of life. Giving feels good. Giving says, “I am abundant. I have more than enough, and I want to give some of it to you.”

When we receive a gift, we allow the giver to feel abundance; we participate in the circulation of money, time, goods, kindness. Do something good for someone today – receive their gift.

5 thoughts on “The Gift of Receiving

  1. Marilyn, Great idea about receiving…Itn’t it all about LOVE….the ability to receive as well as give..if we had more if it in our world, we might have peace really be the “family of man”.

  2. Lovely thoughts, Mare.

    It made me ponder on the joy of giving and took me back to the expression I heard years ago pertaining to grandchildren: “the gift that keeps on giving” and what it really means. The expression speaks to the joy of receiving, particularly when received by a grandchild : the watercolor painting, the tasty tea party spread, the lanyard (see Billy Collins’ poem of the same name).We universally receive these gifts with such rapturous pleasure and never think of reciprocity or appropriateness or whatever.

    Perhaps we should all remember that we each have inside of us “that child” who truly wants to give……never even thinking of reciprocity.

  3. Thank you Marilyn. Your post inspired me to think about giving and receiving in a new way. I wonder why it seems almost a matter of pride to be so self sufficient as to say, “thanks, but I think I can handle it” or “thanks anyway, but I don’t need that” when offers are made or gifts extended?

  4. Marilyn, you must have been reading my mind of late. Sometimes when life is extremely complicated, I get so tightly wound up in giving my all to spouse, children, employer and community that I forget about my own needs. Sometimes in addition to being able to receive–we actually have to ASK others for what we need. We may not get it, but it is important to ask. Otherwise, in many cases, we won’t receive because our need is not even recognized by those around us. As you point out, they want to give! They are pleased and honored to give to others when requested to aid a need.

    There are some people also who are just oblivious to that aspect of relationship or find it hard to turn loose of their resources. It is a gift to them to let them experience that–it is part of their growth.

    This is an extremely timely reflection for me!

  5. What a great post. It is true, indeed, that receiving is giving a gift to the giver. Also receiving a compliment generously with a full-heart and a “thank you” is along the lines of the wisdom of your post. Thank you for sharing your wisdom!

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