We all know the wisdom: “It is better to give than to receive.“ It is certainly true that generosity is an important facet of living a full and joyful existence. You will find generosity the topic for many blogs and in general giving gets all the glory. And yet, there is so much to be said for receiving. Receiving goes hand-in-hand with giving but is often more difficult than giving. Perhaps you feel uncomfortable receiving because it seems like you are selfish or needy or vulnerable or dependent or incapable. Or perhaps you doubt the giver’s intent and are concerned that there is a condition for accepting the gift. If you have difficulty receiving, consider a new approach to accepting generosity with an open heart.
You are given gifts in life of all kinds—some you might not even realize as gifts. There is the category of gift objects that you receive for special occasions like birthdays and holidays and sometimes out of the blue. Another gift category that others give you has nothing to do with acquiring an object. It includes the generosity of others when they lend you a hand, give you support or assist you in life. From the simple act of someone offering you a seat to bigger tasks like driving you to the airport, gifts happen all the time. What gifts of this type have you received?
And there are the gifts that life bestows upon you that do not involve people. Those are often the subtlest gifts yet can be the most powerful. There are many daily gifts you receive: the beauty of nature, the smell of fresh garden roses, the contented purr of your cat, the happy tail wagging of your dog. The list goes on and on. Gifts that you receive every day from your surroundings you may take for granted but they are indeed gifts. What gifts of this kind have you received?
According to the dictionary, there are over a dozen different uses of the word receive. Get or acquire something (like a gift), accept electronic signals (radio reception), act as a receptacle for, take delivery of a message, be hurt by something (as in receive a blow), catch something or catch a ball (aka wide receivers), greet or welcome guests (wedding receiving line), permit to enter and to entertain visitors (it’s so prim and proper to receive guests) and to bear the weight of something. And two very powerful definitions of receive are: – to accept as authoritative, true, or accurate, to believe and – to assimilate through the mind or senses as in receive new ideas.
Such richness to the word receive! And so confining when you limit the meaning of receiving for presents. When considered from this expanded vantage point, to receive means that you are not just acquiring something or being helped out, but developing greater understanding, believing something and feeling its weight and assimilating it and welcoming it and permitting it to enter into your life. Now think about what you receive in your life. What comes to mind? From this perspective, isn’t amazing all that you receive?
No matter the category of gifts, how you receive them can make a huge difference to their impact on you. There is an art to receiving that will increase your willingness to accept with pleasure. And it involves an open heart. It is easiest to accept and welcome a gift when you feel that something is given to you from a good place, with authentic generosity and with a sense that you are deserving of love. But if you fear that the giver has a hidden agenda, then it is understandable that you might feel uncomfortable receiving. You cannot control other people’s actions or intents, but you do have control of your own actions and intents. For instance, if you receive graciously and presume that the giver’s intent is positive, even if it wasn’t, your experience will be enhanced. Here are some other ways to create a heartfelt experience of receiving.
Be gracious and accept joyfully. Being genuinely thankful, even if the gift doesn’t hit the mark is essential to the art of receiving with heart. When you joyfully accept that someone or something in your life wants you to receive a gift from them and you understand that they want you to welcome the gift, your sensation in that moment will be better. As soon as you receive something, try to feel deep into your soul immense gratitude that someone cares about you. Even if it is a simple act from a stranger, let the sense of support and love wash over you. Smile to increase the reaction. When you receive the gift with grace, magic happens for both the giver and the receiver. And magic in moments is what gives life joy and fullness.
Let go of expectations. Managing expectations in life is a large enough topic for an entire book. With regards to receiving, expectations can set you up for great disappointment. When you don’t get what you want it can be very disheartening. This goes for physical gifts as well as any other kinds of gifts. When your expectation isn’t matched with someone else’s behavior you will undoubtedly feel unseen or not understood. Yet you do have some control over this. You can let go of your expectations and be grateful for everything that you receive (see above) or you can make your expectations be known.
Let others know your expectations. When you let those in your life know what you want and need, you are setting yourself up for a positive receiving experience. Asking for gifts doesn’t lessen the impact of receiving—it actually helps because the giver and receiver are in sync. Givers will feel even more generous because they know what you really want. And you will feel gratitude and gracious for the gifts you receive because you know that they were given thoughtfully to meet your wants and needs. Even something as simple as creating a wish list for holiday gifts is a wonderful approach. There is no reason why givers must read your mind and anticipate what you want. Sure it is nice to think that if someone knows you well enough they will give you something they know you will like. And that is lovely. And not always possible. People cannot read each other’s minds—much as we sometimes feel like we can and should. Someone may know you very well and you may love what they usually give you, but sometimes you would be happier if they made you a meal or offered to help you with some chore or just simply hugged you. Let them know.
Give freely to others as you would want them to give to you. Because giving and receiving are so inextricably connected, how you go about giving says a lot for how you receive. Practice giving to others without any conditions of your own. You will gain experience and knowledge in your bones that giving is all about expressing love and kindness without expecting anything in return. Just as expectations get in the way for someone who is receiving a gift, expectations can get in the way of how and why you give. The more you let go of expectations as to how the receiver will react, the better you will be at giving and also at receiving. And of course it goes without saying that whether or not receiving is difficult for you, authentically giving to others and to the world is so needed.
Receiving with an open heart is one of the greatest aspects of life. As you expand your understanding of all that you receive, step back and acknowledge all that life gives you, you will be amazed by all the wonderful gifts you receive. Embrace them with tremendous gratitude and you will be rewarded with love and joy.