If it is an effort to graciously accept praise, gifts, favors, support, and such, you have receiving issues.
I am currently transitioning into a new parish. My former parishioners have been more then affirming and supportive. Their generosity has been staggering. And it has been work for me to receive their kindness and gifts. Not because I don’t appreciate it, but because it elicits an embarrassing discomfort. Feelings not unlike many feel when folk sing us Happy Birthday.
For many of us, an internal struggle is triggered when people try to do things for us. Why?
Receiving is an “art” and in learning to receive we encounter inner wounds. These wounds may play out as feelings of low self-worth or a variety of unpleasant associations; associations that can elicit a chronic need to reciprocate or an overly cautious tendency to question another’s motivation.
Psychologists have also pointed out that we may, in learning to receive, encounter false beliefs about independence, or a sense of being out of control, or an anxiety about being seen as either too selfish or too needy.
One notion I found quite provocative was how receiving makes us vulnerable to the soft feelings of being cared for. “Being offered some gift that reflects caring or invites contact evokes an interpersonal awkwardness. There’s an ambiguity — not knowing where things might go, which is both exhilarating and scary”(John Amodeo, PhD).
Whatever experience we encounter in the role of receiver, a gracious reception of a gift will in turn gift the giver. It almost goes without saying that genuinely receiving a gift conveys to the giver that their effort has made a difference and, in turn, boosts their sense of connection and significance.
Research also claims that learning to receive keeps us emotionally healthy. Without it, chronic feelings of emptiness grow as relationships become one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. It has also been argued that the inability to receive can lead to addictions.
I will argue that learning to receive is in essence learning to give. A sentiment shared by another writer who reasons that until we can receive with an open heart, we’re never really giving with an open heart.
Brene Brown in her book ‘The Gifts of Imperfection’ argues, “When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.” This argument reflects the ego’s attachment to a contrived notion that being independent is virtuous.
The Christian bible tells us to “give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’ And so be it! But that’s not all there is to the blessing.
As I see it, the blessing is also about learning to receive that which others want to give or are even ‘called’ to give. This is a process of realizing that, as another writer (Lolly Daskal) states so well, “all of reality shares in our struggles, feels our pain, celebrates our joy, and cheers us on to live fully”.
So let us pray that the God of grace will increasingly bless us with the emotional health and humble wherewithal to receive the generosity of others freely shared. And, in turn, find ourselves giving to others from a much deeper well of living water; water filtered pure by empathy and compassion.