Sometimes receiving actually is giving.
It seems counter-intuitive, but it’s a major lesson I’ve learned in the past year, and one I hope to carry with me into the new year.
Last summer when I was visiting my very wise grandmother, I watched her accept several zucchinis and a fresh trout as a gift from a neighbor who stopped by. She put the fish in her freezer, and set the zucchinis on the kitchen counter.
“Gramma,” I said, “WHY are you accepting all that when you already have groceries and might not get around to eating this stuff, too?”
My grandmother gave me a look that told me I’d missed the point.
“Because they like to give it to me, it makes them feel happy for looking out for me, and I’m happy to let them feel happy,” she said.
I took a seat. My grandma knows more about life and what people need than just about anybody, and what she taught me there was to stay humble.
Lots of folks make new year’s resolutions to better themselves. For those of us who feel a spiritual imperative to be kind and generous, this can mean goals to help and serve more people.
Nothing wrong with that.
But if our focus is solely on giving and we are reluctant to receive, we may be protecting our pride, and losing out on love.
A friend of mine was discouraged after Christmas following an awkward gift exchange with her daughter’s in-laws. They have several adult children who are married, but she has only her daughter. They have a comfortable retirement, and she is on a careful budget.
Still, she wanted to give them a thoughtful holiday gift that would express her appreciation for their friendly relationship, so she planned ahead and bought them a restaurant gift card for a nice dinner date.
Instead of being pleased with the gift, they tried to refuse it, saying repeatedly it was “too much.”
My friend was embarrassed. She was left feeling she’d done something wrong, but I assured her she hadn’t.
None of us gets to say what’s “too much” when we receive; we get to say “thank you,” and mean it. It’s important to stay humble, both in our reasons to give and in our graciousness when we receive.
Writer Luvvie Ajayi calls herself a “recovering giver,” and says she “used to be someone who was unable to ask for help or receive gifts that felt large, without feeling like I owed someone.”
“When you are only handing out without receiving, you might be unknowingly leading with your ego, because maybe deep down, you love being thanked,” Ajayi says. “Maybe subconsciously, it feeds your ego to always be Captain Here You Go. We gotta check our motives when all we do is GIVE, without knowing how to receive. Are we not allowing people to fully show us LOVE if we don’t allow them to be generous to us?”
Refusing to receive is a toxic kind of pride, I have learned. It’s an arrogant refusal to show vulnerability. Not only am I missing out, but I’m forcing others to miss out on blessings and love, too.
There are enormous spiritual implications in learning to receive, too. For Christians to truly trust Christ, they must make sure their motives for righteous living are rooted in gratitude for the Savior has done for them, not in a misguided attempt to earn their salvation.
This is my year to get over myself. Both in my relationships with people and with God, I am privileged to say “thank you.”