In a world that celebrates giving, the aspect of receiving is often missed. Receiving isn’t a quality that gets much attention or the respect it deserves. It’s often buried underneath the pile of more honourable deeds such as giving. There’s even a Biblical saying embedded in our cultural conditioning which says, “It is better to give than to receive.” And we’ve believed it to be true without question. What this creates is a world of stressed out people proving to themselves and others that they are good based on what they do, how much they volunteer, how much they give and to what cause.
Ironically, when it comes to receiving, we act as if receiving was less noble than giving. It’s true, most of us don’t know how to receive well. We’re terrible receivers in fact. “Oh, no thanks, you keep that . . . oh, I don’t really need that, thanks anyways, but .” We can’t receive a genuine compliment most of the time. We’re quick to dismiss it, which is in effect, no receiving. And to top it all off, instead of receiving, we’ve been taught to take. Take your fair share. Get while the getting’s good.
Have you ever given a gift to someone and they take it without the gratitude that could accompany receiving? How does that make you feel? Different than when you give a gift and your friend receives it open heartedly with their barriers down. They don’t even have to say the words, “thank you,” their body language speaks it.
Most people live by the social conditioning of give and take.
Here’s how it works.
Living by give and take, you’re always looking for what you can get or what you can take with no one noticing. Conversely, if someone gives you something, you feel obliged to take it. Once you take it, there’s a power imbalance and now you’re the one who must give back to them to equalize the power. If you don’t give back in the way that’s expected, you are less than and they are greater than, until you give them something back of equal value. If you give them more or less, then they feel obliged to give you more or less or torture you by making you wait. Sound familiar? A never ending cycle that keeps power games in place.
A paradigm shift starts by changing the language to gifting and receiving.
Here’s how it works.
True gifting is from the sheer joy of contributing to someone or something for no reason, without expecting to get something in return. It DOES exist! Mostly from young children and animals who truly are here to contribute beyond the power plays that creep in on the road to socialization. And of course in those moments, when you and I are moved to gift from the joy of it. Listen to the word “gift.” Doesn’t it sound more fun to be able to gift to someone than to give?
Receiving, truly receiving something from someone with an open heart and no expectations, is a gift to you and the gifter in and of itself. It’s a bonus when the gifter gifts from that space of delight and the receiver receives in that similar vein. There’s a simultaneity of gifting and receiving that does not exist with give and take. Meaning, that when you gift, you also receive and when you receive, that’s a gift for you and the gifter.
A great example is our pets. One of the reasons we love them so is that they’re really great receivers, which makes it fun to gift to them. Can you imagine if your approach to life was jumping up and down, exposing your belly and receiving all the love and belly rubs? If you could receive like that, would you be as stressed out? But you’re not a dog, you’re a human and it’s really hard to receive without feeling uncomfortable sometimes. So let’s bust three common misconceptions about receiving and get you building your receiving muscle right away!
3 common misconceptions of receiving
1. Receiving doesn’t mean you must hold on to what you’ve been given.
Many gifts are well meaning and perhaps not what you would choose for yourself or even desire to keep. You may still receive that misshapen hand-knitted sweater with gratitude and joy, even though you might never wear it. You can be kind and say thank you and actually mean it, as you appreciate the intent behind it.
And if you need a little help about getting over the guilt of letting one of those gifts move on, listen to what your body knows about receiving. It’s a lot like breathing in and breathing out. You receive what you need or desire and you exhale the rest. If you kept holding onto your breath, you’d die. It’s the same way with receiving. You do not have to hold on to what you receive. You can let it go and then receive something else with your next inhale. When your friend asks where that groovy sweater is, just let them know you’re into downsizing or the art of tidying up! (to be handled with great awareness and diplomacy… could be a blog for another time!)
2. Receiving includes vulnerability, but doesn’t mean you allow others to walk all over you.
I dare you to receive that stab-to-the-heart-in-the-guise-of-a compliment (oh that’s a nice outfit…it looks as good as it did when you wore it last year) as “an interesting comment,” not as THE TRUTH about you!
To put it another way, what if someone with muddy boots comes to your house and wants to walk on your clean floor? You’d most likely receive them at the door, AND you’d ask them to take their boots off before they trudge through. If they chose to keep their boots on, sorry, but they’re not coming through that door! You receive them, but don’t allow behaviour that violates you or your space.
I often say that receiving is being like Swiss Cheese . . . you can receive from all energies (muddy boots, mean people) and let what doesn’t contribute to you, move through the holes!
3. Receiving isn’t passive
It’s not about you waiting pathetically holding out your arms in the shape of a bowl, hoping for money or good fortune to drop in. To be receptive is far more active than you might have grown up believing. Receiving is lowering your barriers, standing naked in the wind, perceiving everything and meeting up with it, with every ounce of your being and stepping forward into the unknown. Allowing every tiny beautiful thing to be a gift, even the unexpected muddy boots, the sarcastic comment, the baby vomit on your shirt. (Breathe!)
Receiving is a delicious way of being open that allows others to gift to you. If you put up walls to everyone and make yourself the source for everything, no one can gift to you. You can’t receive. In effect, you can only give, which leads to exhaustion and burnout. As parents, for example, we want to be the source for our children’s well-being, but we eliminate receiving from them when we make ourselves the sole source for everything.
Turning it around from always being the giver to letting yourself be a receiver, might just be the reframe to keep you in the flow of the ease and joy of living!