I have missed and overlooked a lesson that my kids are offering me every year: the gift of receiving. They are full of joy and trust and love. They are thrilled knowing this Christmas season they will receive gifts destined just for them. They are full of wonder and awe.
I realize I have been making an assumption my whole life that giving is hard to do. It can be hard, particularly when I give something we are attached to. It was hard as a kid, but as I have grown older, it gets easier to see that what I have to give is more precious to others than it is to me. What has gotten harder is receiving gifts from others.
Back to my kids – full of joy and trust and love when it comes to asking for receiving gifts. As an adult, I am noticing that it has become increasingly difficult to receive, let alone ask for, a gift. Receiving a gift – a compliment, a favour, a thank you, a gift – is fraught with emotion. A brush-off, suspicion, anxiety, fear, powerlessness, selfishness, vulnerability all take their turn.
Within me, receiving a gift feels like I am broadcasting weakness. How dare I reveal that I don’t have everything I need, that I am all together. I must put on a brave face no matter what. If I am sick or hurt, it is easy to rationalize welcoming help. But if I am physically well, then I had better not ask for anything. But this does not serve me or others well, in the end. Even the gifts I did not ask for, the ones that make be feel bad but are really in service to my own personal learning and growing. Those gifts that I realize much later that really were gifts, not torture.
At the bottom of all of this is my sense of self worth. The biggest gift I can give is to myself – the gift of receiving. I will be honest and reveal when my soul feels bad and ask for what I need. When I receive the gift of hard-to-hear feedback, I will receive it as a gift to be in better relationship with those around me. When the world says “no” I will take that as a sign that I am not needed there yet. When the world says “yes” I will take that as a sign to jump in the canoe and head down the stream.
Receiving gifts is tough, perhaps because it is closer to my heart and my sense of well-being. Far more personal, even threatening. But also far more rewarding. And more giving.
A parting note to self (via my friend Chris Corrigan) – it is hard to give if the gift is not received.